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More than half trees in Papua New Guinea could be lost by 2021, according to a new satellite study of the region. The University of Papua New Guinea and the Australian National University conducted the stady that  found that deforestation is much more widespread than was previously thought, even in so-called conservation areas. Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the world's third largest tropical forest, but it was being cleared or degraded at a rate of 362,000 hectares (895,000 acres) a year in 2001, the report said. The destruction will drive global warming, because tropical forests are an important store of carbon.

 "The unfortunate reality is that forests in Papua New Guinea are being logged repeatedly and wastefully with little regard for the environmental consequences and with at least the passive complicity of government authorities." Phil Shearman, lead author of the study

 The researchers compared satellite images taken over three decades from the early 1970s. In 1972, the country had 38m hectares (94m acres), of rainforest covering 82% of the country. About 15% of that was cleared by 2002.

PNG was a founder of the Rainforest Coalition, a group of tropical nations that say rich countries should pay them to protect their forests as a way of tackling climate change. But the new study suggests many of the vulnerable trees could be removed by the time such an agreement is in place.

 Belden Namah, PNG forests minister, said the government was already taking steps to review its logging policies: "There's a need for rapid action to replace trees that have been cut. And I believe for every tree that has been cut, we should plant three more new trees. That is one major policy I am looking at." The country earns US$176m (£89m) from commercial logging each year.

 The report said deforestation was occurring at the same rate in protected and unprotected areas and justified a significant reduction in logging in Papua New Guinea. Any new forestry programmes should involve small and medium-scale, locally-owned and managed operations where commercial activities are more likely to be environmentally sustainable, it said.

Full Story HERE
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Wayne Melrose (BAppSc, ThDip, MPHTM, FACTM, FAIMS, MNZIMLS)

Tropical Infectious and Parasitic Diseases Unit, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville Qld 4811, Australia.

The nation of Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. It lies wholly within the tropics and is centred around 5oS and 145oE. The mean annual rainfall is 2000 mm, and the average temperature exceeds 25oC. Despite the high rainfall, there are often water shortages in Papua New Guinea because the rainfall is seasonal, with about 85% of rainfall occurring in the "wet" season, which can start anywhere between December and May, and range in length from 2 to 4 months. The total land area of PNG is 460,000 sq km and consists of coastal lowlands and a rugged, mountainous interior. The population of PNG is around 4.7 million and is increasing at the rate of 2.5% per year. The most populous area is the highlands with a population density of 18 people per sq km. By contrast, the lowlands have a density of 3 persons per sq km. Eighty five percent of the population live in rural areas but there is increasing urban drift, with people moving to the cities to find work (Attenborough and Alpers, 1992; Papua new Guinea On-Line, 2000). The total forested area of PNG is around 39 million ha out of a total land area of 46.2 million ha. Thirty three million ha is classified as virgin forest, making it the largest stand of such forest on earth (Mullins, 1994). The PNG government has classified 21 million ha as "protected forest" which occupies slopes too steep for logging. Much of the lowland swamp country soils are too poor to support growth of large trees, and the official estimate of productive forests is 18 million ha (Papua New Guinea Information Unit, 1989).

Current estimates of forest destruction are hard to come by, but in the late 1980's forest was being lost at a rate of 21,000 - 22,000 ha per year (Hurst, 1990; Mullins, 1994). Forest product production has increased from 300,000 cubic metres in 1969 to over 1.7 million cubic metres in 1989. Most of these exports are in the form of logs, so Papua New Guinea misses out on any "value added" component that would result if timber were milled locally. Foreign investors, mainly Japanese, Malaysian, Korean, and Chinese, dominate the timber industry. In the late 1980's local timber companies only had rights to one fifth of the available logging concessions (Barry, 2000).

Full Paper: Go HERE
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Located 160km north of Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to some of the world’s richest biodiversity.  In fact, although only about the size of California, it holds 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity and is renowned for its rainforest, the third largest in the world.  About 1/4 of the species in PNG are found nowhere else in the world.

Moreover, PNG is home to a large indigenous population and some 800 languages (10% of the world’s languages), which reflects the country’s incredible diversity.  Because most of the indigenous groups are small, communal, and heavily dependent on their ancestral land for survival, any disruption or loss of land can be devastating.

Unfortunately, for more than a decade now, indigenous-occupied lands, as well as the rainforests and biodiversity they carry, have been under threat by foreign logging companies.

While much of the attention on deforestation has been focused on larger countries, like Brazil, forests in Papua New Guinea have been quietly disappearing for years.  Deforestation has held steady since the 90s at a rate of 1.4% a year.  One study by UPNG Remote Sensing Centre shows most of the forest will be gone by 2021.

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The forests of Papua New Guinea are being chopped down so quickly that more than half its trees could be lost by 2021, according to a new satellite study of the region.

The study, by the University of Papua New Guinea and the Australian National University, found that deforestation is much more widespread than was previously thought, even in so-called conservation areas. Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the world's third largest tropical forest, but it was being cleared or degraded at a rate of 362,000 hectares (895,000 acres) a year in 2001, the report said.

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"Compendium of Discussion Papers in the Oceania region" Brian D. Brunton, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Pacific Pacific Bioweb, Nadi, Fiji  28 & 29 September, 1998

In Papua New Guinea, we are still in a position where a very large area of the planet's natural forests can be saved. We have about five to ten years to bring forest loss under control. After that time population growth will make forest planning and management very difficult. Current policies and practices point to us loosing this struggle. It is likely that during the lives of our children, the accessible production forests will vanish. Our children will be left with forests on mountains, in wet-lands, in parks and in a few other inaccessible places.

Large areas of the country will become degraded secondary-growth, gardens, and agricultural land.

The extent of deforestation in Papua New Guinea is under question, because there is an intense political struggle over the issue of sustainability in mixed species tropical forests, unchallenged statistics are hard to come by, and the public have difficulty accessing the most recent assessments in the Forest Inventory Mapping System ( paid for by Australian aid). One view is that Papua New Guinea has a total millable forest area of 70,000 Under existing regulations, which may be changed, about 100,000 of forest is considered unsuitable for industrial logging because of inundation (swamp), or elevation (mountains). Each year, it is claimed, we clear 2 percent of our millable forests. By the end of the century we will have cleared 18 percent of our millable forests. At current rates a total clearance of millable forests will be achieved in the year 2032. (FAO State of the World's Forests, Rome, 1997). The Papua New Guinea Forest Authority disputes these figures, says that the FAO statistics are outdated and over-blown, preferring figures of their own that indicate the forests are being logged at a "sustainable rate".