Forests replaced with cattle farms

The leading cause of deforestation in Australia is animal agriculture — mostly to create pasture for beef cattle and grow their food. As more and more forest is destroyed for cattle farming, there are fewer and fewer places where species endemic to Australia, such as Platypus, Koalas, Regent Honeyeater and Rufous Bettongs can thrive. Wildlife helps forests and other landscapes capture carbon and keep it in the ground.

Australia has the highest mammal extinction rate in the world.

The amount of forest and bushland being cleared in Australia every year is enormous — enough to land it on the list of the world’s top deforestation hotspots. According to the Wilderness Society, nearly 350,000 hectares of forest and bushland were bulldozed during the summer of 2020 and 2021 in Queensland. Almost all of that land — 89% — was for beef cattle pasture. 

79% of land cleared in Australia between 2016 and 2020 was for raising livestock.

As forests in Australia are cleared, it creates drier microclimates that can fuel bushfires. Areas where forests have been cleared are warmer — without the trees the soil holds less moisture. Trees play a critical role in creating rainfall, helping moisture from soils evaporate into the atmosphere. The bushfires of 2019 and 2020 destroyed 12 million hectares of forest. A WWF report found that climate change will make forest fires in Australia more severe in the future.

Rewilding Australia 

From reintroducing Critically Endangered species to the wild to harnessing the power of citizen science, there are many things conservationists and environmentalists are doing in Australia to keep its forests wild.

Aussie Ark, WildArk and Re:wild, are helping threatened species return to Australian forests. In 2020, the three organizations released Tasmanian Devils to mainland Australia as part of the Devil Comeback.

Tasmanian Devils had been driven extinct on mainland Australia 3,000 years earlier. As an apex predator, the devil is critical to keeping forests and ecosystems healthy. Devils enrich soils and disperse seeds as they hunt, which helps forests regenerate and keep carbon in the ground. They also bury flammable leaf litter, which can help reduce the amount of fuel for forest fires. Tasmanian Devils are also making it possible for other extirpated and Endangered species to be released to Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales. The devils keep non-native predators, like foxes and feral cats, in check, giving other species a chance to recover and thrive. 

Wilderness Society has created a website to help detect deforestation across Australia. The web-based application, Watch on Nature, uses citizen science, reports of land-clearing and satellite data to monitor deforestation.

Case Studies