Note: This case study is part of a WRI series on tree cover change across the globe. The first poster (1.2 Mb), titled Painting the Global Picture of Tree Cover Change: Tree Cover Loss in the Humid Tropics, depicts tropical hot spots in Brazil, Cambodia, Central Africa, and Indonesia.
Hotspots of forest change appear in red in the inset map at right. Below, high-resolution Landsat images show forests being logged and then cleared for agriculture.
Rush to Biofuels Endangering Indonesian Forests
By Stephen Adam
Considered to be among the world’s most diverse and biologically rich, Indonesia’s forests are under severe threat. Growing demand for wood and land, coupled with weak forest governance and inadequate law enforcement, is fueling deforestation at a rate that is among the world’s highest. Illegal logging now impacts 37 to 41 national parks in Indonesia, destroying the habitat of several endangered species, including orangutans, rhinoceroses, and elephants.
Besides logging, another key driver of forest loss is conversion of natural forest to plantations for the production of palm oil, a major component of food products, that is also in rising demand as a source of biodiesel fuel. As of early 2007, the Indonesian government was considering plans to establish an additional 5 million hectares of new biofuel plantations, primarily oil palm.
Ironically, as worldwide demand for biodiesel is set to rise sharply in the wake of growing concerns about global climate change, the impact on Indonesia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be dramatic. Including CO2 emissions from land-use change and forestry, Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest emitter of GHGs (after the United States, the European Union, and China). More than 80 percent of Indonesia’s emissions coming from changes in land use, especially forest clearing and burning. Destroying natural forests to create new biofuels plantations could create a large, upward spike in Indonesia’s GHG emissions, while establishing plantations in previously non-forested areas could reduce emissions modestly.
Monitoring of tree cover is crucial for Indonesia to effectively manage forests and address rapid forest loss. Analysis of tree cover using MODIS shows large areas of forest conversion in Indonesia. The typical pattern of conversion is shown in the series of Landsat images below.
Related News Links
- Elephants, villagers both losers in Sumatra deforestation (EarthTimes.org)
- APEC to Target 25 percent Cut in Energy Intensity By 2030 (Bloomberg)
- Indonesian Palm Oil Boom Threatens Orangutan, Environment (Jakarta Post)
Multiplying road networks are visible in the 1990 and 2001 images showing the logging that precedes forest clearing. The 2004 image reveals large areas newly cleared for plantations.
Pink and purple hues represent cleared areas, with darker shades indicating bare ground or fire scars. Yellow hues show agriculture, and green depicts forests. In some images, white clouds and their shadows are present. Black stripes in recent satellite images are data gaps caused by a malfunction of the sensor’s scan-line corrector.
Each Landsat image represents an area 29 kilometers wide by 25 kilometers high.
Source: Fred Stolle (WRI).