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Powering Net Zero Commitments

10 Shocking Deforestation Facts in Australia

united nation sustainable development goals

Australia can be said to be home to more than a few of the most magnificent and unique nature found on the planet. The country has large grasslands and savannahs, endangered gum forests, diverse woodlands, and tropical rainforests which offer shelter to some of the planet’s most threatened species.

Nevertheless, Australia is one of the globe’s worst developed countries due to large-scale deforestation, killing millions of native animals which include threatened species and clearing endangered woodlands and forests. The problem is so alarming that we have cleared almost half of our forest over in just the last 200 years.

  1. Over 5,0000 square kilometres of advanced regrowth and virgin bushland are destroyed yearly. Apart from wiping out indigenous wildlife, it is also a major cause of salinity, whilst also causing 14% of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation. 
  1. The nation has lost 45% of open forest, 25% of the rainforest, 40% of malle forest and 32% of the woodland forest all in the last 200 years.¹
  1. The effect these changes have had on Australian wildlife have been considerable. About 20% of Australian mammals, 13% of birds and 7% of reptiles have been listed Vulnerable, Endangered or Extinct.
  1. Over 100 species have become extinct in New South Wales in the last 200 years²
  1. Australia recorded one of the highest tree clearing rates of any developed country. Historically, we have bulldozed more bush each year than less developed countries such as Nigeria, the Congo, Mexico and Burma³
  1. At this moment, 1,000 plants and animal species are at risk of extinction- including the koala. 
  1. 2017-18 saw the woody vegetation clearing rate in Queensland become 329,000 hectares per year. This number was 4 and a half times more than the number recorded in 2009⁴ 
  • 2009–2010: 83,000 hectares
  • 2010–2011: 92,000 hectares  
  • 2011–2012: 155,000 hectares   
  • 2012–2013: 261,000 hectares   
  • 2013–2014: 295,000 hectares  
  • 2014–2015: 296,000 hectares 
  • 2015–2016: 390,000 hectares 
  • 2016–2017: 356,000 hectares 
  • 2017–2018: 392,000 hectares
  1. In New South Wales, the government has followed New South Wales, the government has followed Queensland’s lead by ripping up its native vegetation laws.   
  1. While in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, there are plans to destroy the Keep Riger and Kikberley regions for industrial agricultural schemes. 

Greenhouse gas emissions in the nation from deforestation could spiral even further out of control. In Victoria, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland deforestation laws have been either rolled back or recently weakened.  Emissions from tree clearing from 2016 to 2030 are projected between 673 and 826 Mt CO²e without substantial policy change. By way of comparison, this is the equivalent of operating at least three to four extra dirty Hazelwood coal-fired power plants for this same period.

¹Forest Network ²Department of Environment, NSW  ³Forest Fact Sheet  ⁴Queensland Government report

Original reporting from Wilderness.org.au

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