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Deforestation in Sumatra
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
Indonesia is rapidly losing its lowland forests to logging, much of it
illegal. At present, logging is claiming the forests at a rate of nearly
two million hectares (slightly less than 5 million acres: roughly the same
area as the state of Massachusetts) each year. At this rate, the island
of Sumatra will have no more lowland forests by 2005, a fate already
befallen the island of Sulawesi. Indonesias lowland forests are home
to a wide variety of wildlife and are considered among the richest
ecosystems in the world. Among the unique life forms in these forests are
the Orangutan and the Sumatra Tiger. Sixteen percent of the entire worlds
bird species, eleven percent of its plants, and ten percent of all mammals
on Earth call these forests home. Many are found nowhere else.
In the two Landsat scenes shown above, the pattern of deforestation can
be clearly discerned. Deep green in these images shows lush vegetation in
the forest cover. In both scenes, deep and pale red shows areas where there
is little or no vegetation, often bare ground from where forest has been
completely stripped. The latter Landsat scene from 2001 not only shows
extensive clear cut areas, but also new logging roads built into the
remaining forest to facilitate future cutting. This lowland forest
region is located on Indonesias largest island, Sumatra, roughly 100 km
southwest of the provincial capital of Jambi.
The first image was acquired by Landsat 5s Thematic Mapper (TM) sensor on
June 22, 1992, the second by
Landsat 7s Enhanced
Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor on January 14, 2001. Both are false-color
composite images made
using shortwave infrared, infrared, and green wavelengths. The area shown
above is roughly 30 km x 22 km (19 miles x 14 miles). The large versions
of these images show the same general area covering 60 km x 60 km.