Primary forest cover loss in Indonesia over 2000–2012

Journal name:
Nature Climate Change
Year published:
Published online


Extensive clearing of Indonesian primary forests results in increased greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. However, there is no consensus on the areal extent and temporal trends of primary forest clearing in Indonesia. Here we report a spatially and temporally explicit quantification of Indonesian primary forest loss, which totalled over 6.02 Mha from 2000 to 2012 and increased on average by 47,600 ha per year. By 2012, annual primary forest loss in Indonesia was estimated to be higher than in Brazil (0.84 Mha and 0.46 Mha, respectively). Proportional loss of primary forests in wetland landforms increased and almost all clearing of primary forests occurred within degraded types, meaning logging preceded conversion processes. Loss within official forest land uses that restrict or prohibit clearing totalled 40% of all loss within national forest land. The increasing loss of Indonesian primary forests has significant implications for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation efforts.

At a glance


  1. Indonesian landform, intact and degraded primary forest extent and loss.
    Figure 1: Indonesian landform, intact and degraded primary forest extent and loss.

    Left to right subsets (360 km by 360 km) are for Riau province, Sumatra (left); West Kalimantan province, Kalimantan (centre); and Papua province, Papua (right).

  2. Annual primary forest cover loss, 2000-2012, for Indonesia as a whole and by island group (Sumatra, Kalimantan, Papua, Sulawesi, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara and Java and Bali).
    Figure 2: Annual primary forest cover loss, 2000–2012, for Indonesia as a whole and by island group (Sumatra, Kalimantan, Papua, Sulawesi, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara and Java and Bali).

    Dashed lines are linear fits to the data.

  3. Annual primary forest loss disaggregated by landform for Indonesia as a whole, and the island groups of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.
    Figure 3: Annual primary forest loss disaggregated by landform for Indonesia as a whole, and the island groups of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

    Dashed lines are linear fits to the data.


  1. Barker, T. et al. in Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change (eds Metz, B., Davidson, O. R., Bosch, P. R. & Meyer, L. A.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
  2. MoF (Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia) Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Indonesia. IFCA (Indonesian Forest Climate Alliance) Consolidation Report (Forestry Research and Development Agency FORDA, 2008)
  3. The World Bank Indonesia and Climate Change: Current Status and Policies (World Bank, 2007)
  4. Wilcove, D. S., Giam, X., Edwards, D. P., Fisher, B & Koh, L. P. Navjot’s nightmare revisited: Logging, agriculture, and biodiversity in Southeast Asia. Trends Ecol. Evol. 28, 531540 (2014).
  5. Holmes, D. Environment and Social Development East Asia and Pacific Region Discussion Paper (World Bank, 2000).
  6. Barlow, J. et al. Quantifying the biodiversity value of tropical primary, secondary, and plantation forests. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 47, 1855518560 (2007).
  7. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Global Forest Resource Assessment 2010 Country Report: Indonesia Forestry Department. FRA 2010/095 (UNFAO, 2010).
  8. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 Main Report. FAO Forestry Paper 163 (UNFAO, 2010).
  9. MoF (Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia) Rekalkulasi Penutupan Lahan (Forest Resource Recalculation) Indonesia Tahun 2008 (Badan Planology Kehutanan Departemen Kehutanan Indonesia, 2008).
  10. MoE (Ministry of Environment of Indonesia), Indonesia Second National Communication Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Ministry of Environment, 2010).
  11. MoF (Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia), Statistic of Forest Planology 2012 (Directorate General of Forest Planology, Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia, 2013).
  12. Hansen, M. C. et al. High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change. Science 342, 850853 (2013).
  13. Margono, B. A. et al. Mapping and monitoring deforestation and forest degradation in Sumatra (Indonesia) using Landsat time series data sets from 1990 to 2010. Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 034010 (2012).
  14. Margono, B. A., Bwangoy, J-R. B., Potapov, P. V. & Hansen, M. C. Mapping wetlands in Indonesia using Landsat data sets and derived topographical indices. Geo-spatial Inform. Sci. 17, 6071 (2014).
  15. GOFC-GOLD (Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics). A Sourcebook of Methods and Procedures for Monitoring and Reporting Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals Caused by Deforestation, Gains and Losses of Carbon Stocks in Forests Remaining Forests, and Forestation. GOFC-GOLD Report version COP16-1, (GOFC-GOLD Project Office, Natural Resources Canada, 2010).
  16. Potapov, P. V. et al. Mapping the World’s intact forest landscapes by remote sensing. Ecol. Soc. 13, 51 (2008).
  17. ITTO (The International Tropical Timber Organization), ITTO Guidelines for the Restoration, Management and Rehabilitation of Degraded and Secondary Tropical Forests (ITTO Policy Development Series No. 13, International Tropical Timber Organization, 2002).
  18. Houghton, R. A., Hall, F. & Goetz, S. J. Importance of biomass in the global carbon cycle. J. Geophys. Res. 114, G00E03 (2009).
  19. Page, S. E. et al. The amount of carbon released from peat and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997. Nature 420, 6165 (2002).
  20. Page, S. E., Banks, C. J. & Rieley, J. O. Tropical peatlands: Distribution, extent and carbon storage—uncertainties and knowledge gaps. Peatlands Int. 2, 2627 (2007).
  21. Zedler, J. B. & Kercher, S. Wetland Resource: Status, trends, ecosystem service, and restorability. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 30, 3974 (2005).
  22. Curran, L. M. et al. Lowland forest loss in protected areas of Indonesian Borneo. Science 303, 10001002 (2004).
  23. Hansen, M. C. et al. Quantifying changes in the rates of forest clearing in Indonesia from 1990 to 2005 using remotely sensed data sets. Environ. Res. Lett. 4, 034001 (2009).
  24. Murdiyarso, D., Hergoualc’h, K. & Verchot, L. V. Opportunity for reducing greenhouse gas emission in tropical peatlands. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 1965519660 (2010).
  25. Uryu, Y. et al. Deforestation, Forest Degradation, Biodiversity Loss and CO2 Emission in Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia (WWF Indonesia, 2008).
  26. Koh, L. P., Miettinen, J., Liew, S. C. & Ghazoul, J. Remotely sensed evidence of tropical peatland conversion to oil palm. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 51275132 (2011).
  27. Stibig, H. J., Achard, F., Carboni, S., Rasi, R. & Miettinen, J. Change in tropical forest cover of Southeast Asia from 1990 to 2010. Biogeosciences 11, 247258 (2014).
  28. FWI/GFW (Forest Watch Indonesia/Global Forest Watch). The State of the Forest-Indonesia (Forest Watch Indonesia) (Global Forest Watch—World Resource Institute 2002).
  29. MoF (Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia). Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra. Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA) (Ministry of Forestry Indonesia 2003);
  30. Wallace, A. R. On the Zoological Geography of the Malay Archipelago. Paper presented to the Linnean Society (Zoological Proceedings, 1859).
  31. Land Resources Department/Bina program. The Land Resources of Indonesia: A National Overview from Regional Physical Planning Programme for Transmigration (RePPProT) (Land Resource Department, Natural Resources Institute, Overseas Development Administration and Directorat Bina Program, Direktorat Jenderal Penyiapan Pemukiman, Departemen Transmigrasi, 1990).
  32. Mittermeier, R. A., Robles-Gil, P. & Mittermeier, C. G. Megadiversity: Earth’s Biologically Wealthiest Nations (CEMEX/Agrupaciaon Sierra Madre, Conservation International, 1997).
  33. PRODES (Monitoramento da floresta amazonica Brazileira por satellite) (INPE—Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, 2013); last accessed October 2013.
  34. INPE (Instituto Nacional De Pesquisas Espaciais). Deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia (INPE, 1992).
  35. Shimabukuro, Y. E., Roberto dos Santos, J., Roberto, F., Duarte, V. & Rudorff, B. F. T. The Brazilian Amazon monitoring program: PRODES and DETER projects. in Global Forest Monitoring from Earth Observation (eds Achard, F. & Hansen, M. C.) (CRC, Taylor & Francis Group, 2013).
  36. DEGRAD Mapeamento da degradacao florestal na amazonia Brazileira (INPE— Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, 2013);
  37. Berry, N. J. et al. The high value of logged tropical forests: Lesson from northern Borneo. Biodivers. Conserv. 19, 985997 (2010).
  38. Putz, F. E. et al. Sustaining conservation values in selectively logged tropical forests: The attained and the attainable. Conserv. Lett. 5, 296303 (2012).
  39. Gibbs, H. K., Brown, S., Niles, J. O. & Foley, J. A. Monitoring and estimating tropical forest carbon stocks: Making REDD a reality. Environ. Res. Lett. 2, 045023 (2007).
  40. Page, S. E. & Rieley, J. O. Tropical peatlands: A review of their natural resource functions with particular reference to Southeast Asia. Int. Peat J. 8, 95106 (1998).
  41. Murdiyarso, D., Dewi, S., Lawrence, D. & Seymour, F. Indonesia’s Forest Moratorium: A Stepping Stone to Better Governance? Working Paper No. 76 (CIFOR, 2011).
  42. Edward, D. P., Koh, L. P. & Laurance, W. F. Indonesia’s REDD+ pact: Saving imperiled forests or business as usual? Biol. Conserv. 151, 4144 (2012).
  43. Sloan, S. Indonesia’s moratorium on new forest licenses: An update. Land Use Policy 38, 3740 (2014).
  44. SNI (Standar Nasional Indonesia) Klasifikasi Penutup Lahan (Land Cover Classification). SNI 7645:2010 (Badan Standarisasi Nasional (BSN), 2010)
  45. MoF (Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia). Pemantauan Hutan di Indonesia (Forest Monitoring in Indonesia). Overview of the forest monitoring activities by the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia. (, last accessed November 2013), (Jakarta UNREDD documentation 2013).
  46. Cowardin, L. M., Carter, V., Golet, F. C. & LaRoe, E. T. Classification of Wetlands and Deep Water Habitat of the United States. Washington FWS/OBS–79/31 (US Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Services, 1979).
  47. Whitmore, T. C. Tropical Rain Forests of the Far East (Oxford Science Publications, 1984).
  48. Desaunettes, J. R. Catalogue of Landforms for Indonesia: Examples of a Physiographic Approach to Land Evaluation for Agricultural Development. AGL/TF/INS/44 Working Paper No. 13 (Land Capability Appraisal Project at Soil Research Institute, Food and Agriculture Organization, 1977).
  49. Kapos, V., Rhind, J., Edwards, M., Price, M. F. & Ravilious, C. in Forests in Sustainable Mountain Development: A State-of-Knowledge Report for 2000 (eds Price, M. F. & Butt, N.) 49 (CAB International, 2000).
  50. Korner, C. et al. in Mountain Systems Vol. 1 (eds Hassan, R., Scholes, R. & Ash, N.) 681716Ch. 24, (Island Press, 2005).

Download references

Author information


  1. Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA

    • Belinda Arunarwati Margono,
    • Peter V. Potapov,
    • Svetlana Turubanova &
    • Matthew C. Hansen
  2. The Ministry of Forestry (MoF) of Indonesia, Jakarta 10270, Indonesia

    • Belinda Arunarwati Margono
  3. World Resource Institute, Washington DC 20002, USA

    • Fred Stolle


B.A.M. designed and implemented workflow; performed data processing; characterized wetland extent, other landforms and primary forest; performed analyses and results synthesis; prepared the manuscript; M.C.H. assisted in study design and manuscript composition; P.V.P. assisted in study design, performed pre-processing of remote sensing data inputs and generated forest change data; S.T. performed data processing and led primary forest characterization; F.S. advised on policy consequences and overall thematic presentation.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to:

Author details

Supplementary information

Additional data