A shocking new report has named Australia as the only developed nation on a list of 24 deforestation fronts worldwide.
Half the natural forests in inland eastern Australia have been bulldozed, according to a report released on Thursday by wilderness preservation group the World Wide Fund for Nature.
More than 700 native plant and animal species, including koalas, are now threatened due to logging and land clearing to make way for livestock.
Australia secured its place on the list because the Queensland and New South Wales governments axed restrictions on broadscale land clearing for agricultural purposes.
A mother koala and her baby sitting on top of a log pile in Queensland after land clearing
A bulldozer clearing trees for urban expansion in Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, in Queensland
NSW saw a surge in clearing by farmers when NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian replaced vegetation laws in August 2017.
As a result, the 29,400 hectares cleared in 2018 was eight per cent higher than the previous year, but more than twice the 12,300 hectares removed on average between 2009 and 2017.
The Campbell Newman government in Queensland passed a suit of land-clearing laws in 2013, accelerating deforestation until they were revised in 2018.
Between 2016 and 2018, almost 250,000 hectares of threatened species habitat were destroyed in Queensland.
Pictured: a young greater glider that was displaced by land clearing in Chinchilla, north-west of Brisbane
A native poplar box tree that was cleared using chains in Augathella, central Queensland, in February 2020
Combined with catastrophic bushfires that ravaged the nation last year, WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said the eastern part of the nation is in dire condition.
‘Forest destruction was already bad enough for the region to be declared a global deforestation front, then the 2019-20 bushfires burned about 12.6 million hectares in eastern Australia,’ he said.
According to the report: ‘Forest fires are likely to increase due to longer and more extreme dry seasons as a result of climate change.’
Cattle ranching was the largest contributor to deforestation in eastern Australia, following by significant logging.
Two hollow nesting galahs that were so injured during land clearing they had to be euthanised in Beerwah, near the Sunshine Coast
To help restore bulldozed forests, the WWF launched Regenerate Australia – the world’s largest reforestation program.
Over five years, project leaders will work with local communities, governments, traditional owners, NGOs, scientists, businesses, innovators, investors, and foundations to reestablish wildlife and habitats.
The majority of nations on the list are in Africa, but Latin American countries with Amazon rainforest, including included Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela/Guyana, took the first five places.
Remaining countries were in Southeast Asia and the Oceanic region.
TOP 24 DEFORESTATION FRONTS
1 Amazon – Brazil
2 Amazon – Colombia
3 Amazon – Peru
4 Amazon – Bolivia
5 Amazon – Venezuela/Guyana
6 Gran Chaco – Paraguay/Argentina
7 Cerrado – Brazil
8 Chocó-Darién – Colombia/Ecuador
9 Maya Forests – Mexico/Guatemala
10 West Africa – Liberia/Ivory Coast/Ghana
11 Central Africa – Cameroon
12 Central Africa – Gabon/Cameroon/Republic of Congo
13 Central Africa – DRC/CAR
14 Central Africa – Angola
15 East Africa – Zambia
16 East Africa – Mozambique
17 East Africa – Madagascar
SOUTHEAST ASIA AND OCEANIA
18 Mekong – Cambodia
19 Mekong – Laos
20 Mekong – Myanmar
21 Sumatra – Indonesia
22 Borneo – Indonesia/Malaysia
23 New Guinea – Indonesia/PNG
24 Eastern Australia
Source: WWF report, Deforestation fronts: Drivers and responses in a changing world