Greenpeace Canada

Greenpeace Canada

March 22, 2006 11:02 ET

New scientific reports document devastating loss of ancient forests

New scientific reports document devastating loss of ancient forests in Canada and around the world - Canada missing conservation opportunities Attention: Environment Editor, News Editor, World News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO/ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - March 22, 2006) - Two new reports released this week in Canada and at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meetings in Brazil paint an ever-worsening picture of the state of the world's forests and signal an urgent call to protect what remains. The maps and reports, released separately by Greenpeace and Global Forest Watch Canada, reveal that less than 10% of the world's land area remains as intact forests larger than 500km2 and that Canada's southern forests are increasingly fragmented. Intact forests are forest areas that have not been impacted by logging, roading, or other industrial development.

The groundbreaking mapping reports, entitled "World's Last Intact Forest Landscapes" (Greenpeace) and "Canada's Forest Landscape Fragments" (Global Forest Watch Canada) are being released at a time when both terrestrial and marine life are being lost at an unprecedented rate. The current rate of extinction of plant and animal species is approximately 1,000 times faster than it was in pre-human times and is predicted to be 10,000 times faster by the year 2050 (1).

"These scientific reports are a wake-up call to industry and governments in Canada and around the world," said Richard Brooks, a forest campaigner with Greenpeace. "The vast majority of the planet's ancient forests have been degraded or fragmented by development and roads. And here in Canada, where we have some of the last remaining pockets of original forest, we are losing the opportunity to protect them permanently."

Findings from the reports include:

* 82 of 148 countries lying within the forest zone have lost all their intact forest landscapes.
* 44 percent of the last remaining intact forest landscapes larger than 500 km2 lie in the great Boreal forests of Canada, Alaska and Russia.
* 92% of Canada's Boreal forests remain in patches larger than 100km2, with the majority lying in Quebec, the Northwest Territories, and Ontario.
* Less than 6.7% of intact forest landscapes in North America larger than 500km2 are strictly protected from development.

Only intact forests of several thousand square kilometres are large enough to sustain healthy populations of many larger wildlife and sufficient in size to adapt to the changing global climate Large, unfragmented forests are less vulnerable to threats such as the invasion of alien species as well as to drought, fire and insect outbreaks.

"When Canada's ancient forests continue to be roaded and logged to manufacture throwaway products like toilet paper and facial tissue despite the fact that there are so few intact forests left on the planet, you have to wonder if governments and industry in Canada really care about our natural heritage," added Brooks. "We have an opportunity to be a global leader in conservation, but if industrial development continues to push into these forests, we'll have lost our chance."

Both reports and maps use state of the art technology including recent high-resolution satellite images to create the most accurate snapshot of Canada and the world's major forest ecological systems ever made. The maps make it clear that implementing a global network of large protected areas is needed to halt the loss of the planet's forests and to preserve global biodiversity.

The launch of the maps further supports international campaigns to protect ancient forests in crisis. Greenpeace is pressuring giant consumer companies like Kimberly-Clark, maker of Kleenex brand tissue products, to stop destroying North America's ancient Boreal forest. The organization is also working in the heart of the Amazon, campaigning to prevent it from being cleared to grow agricultural products such as soy, and has set up a Global Forest Rescue Station in the Paradise Forests of Papua New Guinea to protect those forests from illegal logging.

Contacts:
Richard Brooks, Greenpeace forest campaigner: 604-253-7701 ext 16 (land) 416-573-7209 (cell)
Andrew Male, Greenpeace Communications: 416-880-2757 (cell)

Notes to editors

(1) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.

The reports can be downloaded from www.intactforests.org and www.globalforestwatch.ca

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