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Primary forest cover loss in Indonesia over 2000–2012

Nature Climate Change volume 4, pages 730735 (2014) | Download Citation


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.

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Support was provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the United States Geological Survey, and Google, Inc. Development of methods was supported by NASA through its Land Cover and Land Use Change and Terrestrial Ecology programs (grants NNH05ZDA001N, NNH07ZDA001N, NNX12AB43G). The authors would like to thank the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia for sharing data and colleagues from the University of Maryland (L. Wang and A. Tyukavina) and the Ministry of Forestry (J. Purwanto) for technical assistance.

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


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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.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Belinda Arunarwati Margono.

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