posted at 10:50
Author: Andrew Freedman
Indonesia Overtakes Brazil for Worst Deforestation Title
The high rate of deforestation of primary-forest lands - defined as mature natural forests that retain their original composition, and have not been completely cleared and replanted in recent history - is the reason why Indonesia ranks as the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Huge amounts of carbon and methane, which is another greenhouse gas, are stored as organic matter in Indonesia's wetland forests; trees and soil in other parts of the country also store carbon. As the study notes, primary forests are the largest aboveground stores of carbon in the world, with even more carbon and methane buried in peatlands. Led by a scientist working for the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry while on leave at the University of Maryland, the study seeks to settle the debate on just how much land-clearing is taking place in Indonesian forests. "I think the take-home message is these forests are under a lot of stress," said Matthew Hansen, a researcher at the University of Maryland, who co-authored the study. The clearing of wetland forests is most likely the work of "Agro-industrial land developers," rather than small landholders, suggesting a link to large palm-oil and paper companies, according to the study. In addition to storing global-warming gases, Indonesia's forests are key areas of biodiversity. These forests are estimated to contain 10% of the world's plants, 12% of the world's mammals and 17% of the world's bird species, the study said.

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