Deforestation is a continuing and pervasive problem around the world. If you enjoyed learning about the most unusual and exotic endangered forests, read on for more visually stunning threatened forests that need human protection and action. Deforestation occurs, despite the need to protect forests, for a variety of reasons. These include agricultural uses, profitable commercial logging and pulpwood, and other uses like mining, dams and charcoal harvesting. In many cases it comes down to money versus preservation, and only when methods of sustainability are learned and taught will forests be completely safe.
The Petrified Forest
The Petrified Forest is world famous and though it is not a traditional living forest it is a precious national treasure all the same. But due to tourists and looting it is under continued threat. Many tourists may think, "I'm only one person, it's just one little piece of wood," but over time this creates a major problem. The bigger problem is looting, where people steal quantities of the petrified wood to sell on the black market.
Gingko Petrified Forest
Who would think a gingko forest would be found in the Northwest? It's located on the Columbia River, and it's doubly special because it is a rare petrified forest. The Gingko Petrified Forest is also threatened by tourism and looting.
Congo Basin Forests
African forests are under grave threat in many regions, and while Central forests are less endangered than coastal forests (especially West Africa), there are still losses that worry scientists. In particular, the Congo Basin Forests are critically affected by deforestation for logging, oil, mining and agriculture, which has prompted the global community to invest hundreds of millions to preserve this forestland.
The Cumberland Plateau is part of the Appalachian Plateau and includes forest land in West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. (It is also called the Allegheny Plateau.) Unfortunately this historic tract is now threatened – see the damage to the Plateau in Tennessee, above.
Coral Reef Forest
The case of the coral reef forest of Florida is truly tragic. In the 1970s two scientists happened upon a 90 mile underwater stretch of gorgeous white oculina coral forest – some of the mounds were as high as 80 feet. They excitedly photographed every inch, amassing a file of 70,000 image. They were able to get a few miles of the forest protected from shrimp trawlers, and all was forgotten. Three decades later, the lead researcher went back and found that nearly all the forest had been reduced to heaps of splintered, ruined rubble. They took knew photographs and found that all the forest save for the few miles that had once been preserved, were completely destroyed.Action has now been taken to stop fishing, but unfortunately these types of coral take thousands of years to regrow.
Local villagers in Bangladesh had to start round-the-clock physical defense of a threatened stand of forest. The people wanting to cut down the forest? Corrupt government authorities bribed by thugs in the black market. Though the villagers could use the forest for their own subsistence, they have chosen to balance their needs with preserving the forest and have fought to protect it. One man who guards 200 acres says they now only have to guard the forest occasionally instead of constantly, though it is still threatened.
Brazilian Atlantic Forest
Conservation groups teamed up internationally to save a precious 1,000 acre stand of unique and isolated Brazilian forest that is endangered. Located in Minas Gerais, all that remains of this forest is some 2,000 acres.
Giant Kelp Forests
The amazing kelp forests of Tasmania and Australia are seriously threatened – in fact they are all but extinct. These incredible underground rainforests can have individual vines growing to 100 feet long or more. Yet in just 30 years, 95% of these water forests have disappeared. Pollution, climate change, harvesting, and a changing ecosystem(among other causes) are to blame. Kelp is used to make gelatin, jam, and ice cream.
Forestland of the Danube delta is seriously threatened. In particular, forests in Croatia and Hungary are at risk. It is mostly wetland that is threatened, but forests are at risk due to development and logging.
Not only are forests and wetlands around the Danube delta and its tributaries threatened. The river itself is considered one of top 10 endangered rivers, according to the World Wildlife Federation. The organization has been working actively with European organizations and authorities to preserve this important and resource-rich area of land that is so important to many Eastern European countries.
Maldives: Swept Away
Though the tiny Maldives are home to just over 2,500 acres of forest, it is considered at risk for the simple fact that the Maldives will be the first to go as global warming changes sea levels in the coming decades.
Only 1.5% of Sri Lanka's forests remain. Habitat loss doesn't just mean loss of trees – it means threatening the diverse and unique animals, including frogs (an important indicator species), as well. Though Sri Lanka only covers .13% of the world's surface it is home to 2% of the earth's frog and toad species. In fact in just one decade over 35 species were discovered. Yet it may be too late to learn from this ecological diversity as the forests are rapidly disappearing. Sri Lanka has one of the world's worst deforestation rates.
Hainan Forest in China is the country's only tropical rainforest and was gravely threatened just a decade ago. Major replanting efforts, and tightened restrictions, have improved conditions, but the forest still remains at risk. It is home to 25% of China's mammal diversity and 33% of China's bird diversity.
The Western Ghats in India is most of what remains of the country's original vast expanses of tropical rainforest. And not much of it can be considered pristine, at that. It was not until 1988 that the government changed its policy from production-focused (harvesting and commercial use) to preservation and sustainable use. It may be too late, but many are working to save the forest.
Some of the planet's most endangered forests are found in Indonesia, which with its millions of hectares of forest and 17,000 islands experienced some of the worst deforestation of any country on earth during the 80s and 90s. In a 15-year span from 1990-2005 deforestation reached 26%. Many of the once-healthy forests are critically threatened to pockets and corridors that barely sustain the rich biodiversity of the land. The orangutan is nearly gone, while two species of tigers are now extinct. Many more animal and plant species are threatened, and chlorine pollution from wood pulping threatens the human population and agriculture.
Laos, a relatively poor country, began getting the attention of investors from rich western countries in the early 1990s. The country is resource rich. What followed was a destructive feeding frenzy that wiped out nearly 7% of the country's total forest land in just 15 years. Action is being taken to raise awareness and ensure sustainable harvesting but the forests of Laos are still at great risk.
The Most Threatened Forest on Earth
Malaysia is home to the world's most rapidly disappearing forest. In fact, its forests were destroyed at an even worse rate in the Noughties than in the 1990s (at a change of 85%). 7% of the forest is lost annually, mainly to agricultural fires, logging and urban development.
Like many Pacific neighbors, the Phillippine Islands' forests are seriously endangered. At one time these forests were famous; now their magic and magnificence is mostly a memory, stuck in history books and photographs. In only 15 years 1/3 of the forest of the Phillippines was wiped out. The future is bleak.
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is rife with problems: tribal warfare, corrupt governance and civil unrest, poaching of endangered species, massive forest destruction. Some of the world's last tigers and elephants live in these woods, and they are approaching extinction if the last of their habitat is not preserved.
The devastating effects of the Vietnam War created scars that last to this day. Chemical warfare, including napalm, along with bombs and forest battles, destroyed much primary forest. After the war ended and the country was left to recover economically, many turned to logging and agriculture to survive. This only worsened the plight of the forests. Vietnam has lost a whopping 80% of its primary forests.