The fact that the world’s tropical forests are disappearing at an astonishing rate is cause for real concern, but the rate of destruction in Borneo’s forests is particularly shocking. That’s because Borneo’s tropical forests are disappearing twice as fast as those in other areas – in the past 4 decades, nearly a third of the total forest has been completely wiped out.

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Since 1970, Borneo’s native forests have been wiped out by fire, logging and clearing. But lack of documentation makes it hard for researchers to get a real understanding of how much area has been deforested, so researchers turned to images from satellites to help them find out what has been happening on the island over the past 40 years.

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Images from the LANDSAT satellite show that about 30% of forest has declined since 1973 and over 170 thousand miles of logging roads have been built in the same time. Many of these roads have reached high-elevation and remote areas that were untouched before. The rate of deforestation is so dramatic that it is actually double that of the rest of the world’s humid tropical forests. The researchers, who published their study in PLOS ONE this week, hope that this information will help with future conservation planning while there are still forests to protect.


Lead image via Shutterstock, image via Ben Sutherland