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Focus on Forests (text version)

Disappearing wildlife

One of the reasons the Rio Bravo forest has the FSC certificate is that it provides a safe haven for wildlife. A United Nations survey suggested that between 2 and 25% of all species in tropical forests (plant and animal) will die out in next 25-30 years.

If forest patches are too small, many species cannot survive. Even when a forest is just damaged or thinned, loss of food and nest sites and affect animals, and climbing plants and epiphytes lose their growing sites. Perhaps most at risk are the insects, millipedes and other small creatures which are very sensitive to small changes in their habitat.

On the other hand, selective logging (removing single trees) has been shown to actually increase the number and diversity of animals. In the clearings, tree species with fleshy fruits do well and are able to support more of the animals which feed on these fruits.

Golden Lion Tamarin Photograph
The golden lion tamarin is just one of more than 170 animal species under threat in the Atlantic forest of Brazil.

Sumatra and Borneo are now the only places where orangutans are found in the wild and their habitat is shrinking fast. Many have been killed by huge fires and others eaten by starving farmers whose crops have been wiped out.

Despite the gloomy picture in some parts of the world, Programme for Belize shows that it is possible to make money by harvesting timber and encouraging tourists, whilst still preserving the wildlife. The next case study shows a different way a forest can be made to ‘pay its way’ with minimal damage to the environment.

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