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20 years of Forest Loss in Indonesia and Malaysia

Deforestation in Indonesia affects the long-term loss of forests across much of the nation. Indonesia is home to some of the most biologically diverse forests globally and ranks 3d in biodiversity after Brazil and the DR of Congo.

As late as 1900, Indonesia was still a densely forested nation: forests covered 84% of the total land area. Deforestation amplified in the 1970s and has accelerated further. The estimated forest cover of 170 million hectares around 1900 decreased to less than 100 million hectares by the end of the 20th century.

Logging to clear land for cultivation has made Indonesia the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the U.S.

By 2012 Indonesia had exceeded the rate of deforestation in Brazil and become the fastest forest clearing nation globally.

But in the past 5 years, the deforestation rate has decreased by 90 percent, from more than one million hectares a year in 2016 to a historic low of 115.5 thousand hectares in 2020. The government has achieved it by implementing different restrictions, including the palm oil moratorium.

Reddit user crossground created a fantastic animated map of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.


The large map in the visualization center encircles most of Indonesia, the southern tip of Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. 

The three zoomed-in maps encircle territories.

Forestry in Riau (A)

The Indonesian island of Sumatra has lost more than 50 percent of its wild forests over the last 22 years. Lime green regions illustrate the extent of peatlands, which are the place to big carbon stores, and discharge up to 10x more carbon than forests when clearance-burned.

Southeast Asia is home to approximately half the global tropical mountain forests. Carbon stocks in the area's steep, high-elevation forests are much more significant than in lowland forests. This is presumably due to greater levels of primary production and organic soil content in the area's highland woods.

During the 2000s, forest loss in South East Asia was mainly centralized in the lowlands but shifted in the 2010s to more mountainous areas. When mountainous forests in warm areas are lost, species are caused to move upslope as their habitat decreases.

Logging in Sarawak (B)

Rainforests in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo have been eliminated due to logging and palm oil industries. Deforestation has influenced the life of indigenous tribes, particularly the Penan, whose life is heavily dependent on forest produce. 

Kalimantan Palm Oil Plantations (C)

Indonesia and Malaysia account for 84 percent of worldwide palm oil production. Palm oil is used mainly in food (accounting for more than 30 percent of global vegetable oil supplies). 

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