Is there a future for primary forests ?
Human kind has colonized almost every parcel of the world, causing the extinction of 60% of biodiversity. A few places remain untouched by human activities including primary forests, which are strongly endangered by our way of life.
What is a primary forest ?
According to Greenfacts, “Primary forests are forests of native tree species, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.” These forests store carbon and are supposed to compensate greenhouse gas emissions.
Why are they threatened ?
Everywhere in the world, the simple fact of eating, going to work by car or by bus or simply printing a report, put these forests in danger. The exponential need of soja, palm oil, cacao, beef, leather, pulp paper, wood for these activities causes a massive clearing of millions of hectares of tropical forests. Our consumption habits combined to the new China’s habits harm our planet. Three quarters of deforestation is caused by agriculture.
In the race to development, many governments put primary forests in danger.
In Europe, the last primary forest Bialowieza is threatened. The Polish government ordered to cut down a large number of trees in order to “protect” the forest against an infestation of xylophagous insects. According to the European institutions and to NGOs, the purpose of this operation is only economic, and it is unacceptable : the European Court of justice judged on April 2018 that cutting down Bialowieza’s trees was contrary to European law. Poland risks economic penalties if it doesn’t stop (a fine of a minimum of 4,3 million euros).
On the other side of the Atlantic, we already know that the Amazonian forest, the “green lung” of the world, is threatened. Indeed, the Climate Observatory calculated that in 2017, 46% of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions were due to deforestation. And it’s not going to get better : the election of the new Brazilian president may accelerate the destruction of Amazonia. Jair Bolsonaro wants to allow mining in protected indigenous reserves, promote farmer’s rights, expands arable land in the country and a lot of other measures which will devastate the forest.
On the African continent, the Congo basin shelters the second largest primary forest in the world. But it is also an endangered carbon sink. This year, the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) attributed three forestry concessions to Chinese companies. And the same government intend to grant 14 more. The concessions covers more than 32 000 km², more than Belgium’s surface area. Recents studies showed up that this primary forest could be off the globe in 2100.
At the same time, the production of palm oil in South-East Asia is burning the lasts rainforests as well as the last species which could only survive in these forests.
How to address deforestation ?
There is a need to communicate on this matter, most of the deforestation happens out of our sight. We also know that these forests can slow climate change and help us reduce greenhouse gas concentration on Earth. By destroying primary forests, we put wildlife and humanity in danger.
Europe is the first importer of cacao which causes massive destruction of biodiversity. It is a kind of « imported deforestation » against which French government wants to engage with its National strategy against imported deforestation. This is the most advanced initiative in the world and France wants to spread it at the European and International level.
La forêt congolaise livrée à l’industrie du bois, Journal de l’environnement, 25/05/2018
Congo Basin forest loss dominated by increasing smallholder clearing, Sciences Advanced, 07/11/2018
La stratégie nationale de lutte contre la déforestation importée, WWF, 14/11/2018
Brazil records worst annual deforestation for a decade, The Guardian, 24/11/2018