Deforestation and forest degradation in Papua New Guinea

Colin Filer, Rodney Keenan, Bryant Allen, John R McAlpine

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has played a prominent part in recent negotiations for "rainforest nations" to be compensated for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation or forest degradation (DFD). A new report "The State of the Forests of Papua New Guinea" claims that rates of DFD in PNG are much higher than have previously reported. It suggests more than half of PNG's remaining forests will have disappeared or be damaged beyond recovery by 2021. We argue that this claim is incorrect. The report overestimates the area of intact primary forest in 1972 and the impact of traditional land use practices on forest cover. Much of what the RSLUP report considers as deforestation is part of a cycle of traditional clearance for farming, fallow and regrowth that has been occurring for hundreds of years. The assumption that areas impacted by harvesting or shifting cultivation will inevitably degrade and become non-forest is also not supported by observation of cutover forest in PNG. A considerable proportion of cutover forest areas will recover carbon stocks after harvesting. It is argued that traditional land use practices and forest recovery processes need to be considered in assessing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation in countries with complex land use histories such as PNG.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)813
    JournalAnnals of Forest Science
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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