A landscape (as seen from the road near the President's Lodge site), Gola, Sierra Leone

Saving tropical forests

Tropical forests are being lost at an alarming rate. Every second, we lose an area of forest about the size of a football pitch, amounting to 130,000 square kilometres every year.

Rainforests are in danger

Deforestation accounts for between 15 - 20% of all human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases - more than is emitted by the 27 countries of the European Union combined.

Tropical forests are the most biodiverse of all ecosystems, harbouring at least 70% of the world's plants and animals. The loss of natural tropical forests is a wildlife catastrophe.

Forest loss also threatens the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities worldwide, totalling about 1.6 billion people.

So not only is destruction of tropical forests a major threat to wildlife and the major cause of the displacement of forest-dwelling people, it's also a major contributor to climate change. Yet despite this, attempts to pass national laws or negotiate international treaties to save natural forests have repeatedly failed.

In large part, this is because tropical forests are worth next to nothing if left standing. The economic incentives are to clear them, for their timber and fuel wood and above all, for the agricultural value of the land.

As a result, forests are cleared for cattle ranching, for soy, for oil palm and other sources of valuable commodities.

Our actions to help

Along with our BirdLife Partners, we work to reduce deforestation and conserve natural forests. We do so in two main ways - developing both national and international policy and undertaking conservation projects in tropical countries.

In late 2005, Papua New Guinea and nine other tropical forest countries made a proposal to the UN climate change convention on 'reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries' (REDD+). The idea was that developing countries would be paid for reducing their national emissions from deforestation.

We work with other major environmental groups on this new agreement.

With Burung Indonesia, we conserve 1,000 square kilometres of forest in Sumatra. Known as Harapan (Indonesian for 'hope'), it protects about a quarter of the remaining Sumatran dry lowland forest.

With the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, we protect about 700 square kilometres of forest in Sierra Leone. The Gola forest is a last remnant of the once great Guinea Forest of West Africa.

An oil palm plantation just outside the territory of the Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra