13 photos that show how humans have changed the world’s forests

Every year, 18.7 million acres of forest disappear, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Deforestation, pollution, climate change, and old fashioned human carelessness are wreaking havoc on the world’s forests.

Here are 13 photos that show just how much our forests have changed.


Parts of the Amazon rain forest contain ponds of dirty water left over from hydraulic mining.

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The aftermath of hydraulic mining.
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Ricardo Funari/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hydraulic mining uses high-pressure water jets to dislodge rocks and sediment. At Agua Branca gold mining village in Pará, Brazil, the leftover mud forms murky pools.


Illegal gold mining in Peru has wreaked havoc on its forests.

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An aerial view of a deforested area of the Amazon jungle due to illegal mining.
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Guadalupe Pardo/Pool/Reuters

In addition to destroying parts of the Amazon jungle, “wildcat mining” drives child labor and sex trafficking in the region, according to NBC News. Peru’s government declared a state of emergency in February, enlisting its military to eliminate illegal mining machinery.


In Brazil, illegal logging fuels rapid deforestation.

SBS News reports that illegal logging in the Amazon in Brazil contributed to a 14% increase in deforested land last year.


The Interoceanic Highway connecting Peru and Brazil through the Amazon rain forest was built for economic growth, but has resulted in drastic deforestation.

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The Interoceanic Highway during construction in 2007.
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Brent Stirton/Getty Images

In Iberia, a Peruvian town located along the Interoceanic Highway, many of its residents rely on harvesting latex from the forest as a source of income. Iberia’s deforestation levels steadily climbed from low to medium to high between 2012 and 2015, according to Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP).


Farmers illegally clear patches of the rain forest to grow more crops and graze more livestock.

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An aerial view of deforestation in the Western Amazon region of Brazil.
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Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil is the world’s top exporter of beef, and the second top soy exporter behind the US. Farmers raze the rainforest to keep up with the global demand.


Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has expressed plans to cut down more of the Amazon, prompting concerns from scientists and indigenous communities.

Bolsonaro plans to cut down more of the Amazon rain forest, saying that too many environmentally protected areas are hampering the country’s development. Business Insider previously reported that indigenous communities are calling for the creation of a “sacred corridor of life and culture” that would span the Amazon from the Andes mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.


It’s not just the Amazon rain forest experiencing deforestation. Sudan lost 8.4% of its forest cover between 1990 and 2010.

Sudan’s charcoal and fuel wood trades are partially to blame for the loss of forest.


As more of India’s forests disappears, wildlife is being pushed into populated areas.

In 2017, Indian forest guards removed a leopard from a residential area at the state zoological park in Guwahati, Assam.


Borneo, Malaysia, has lost half of its forest cover at a rate of 1.3 million hectares per year, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

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A truck hauls fresh timber from mountainous terrain in the Limbang area of Sarawak, Borneo. Once covered with forest, the area has been devastated by more than two decades of government approved logging.
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Yvan Cohen/LightRocket via Getty Images

Deforestation due to logging, forest fires, and palm oil plantations has forced local tribes from their ancestral homelands and endangered animals such as orangutans, leopards, and elephants.


Indonesia’s forest is a quarter of the size of the Amazon, but it lost more hectares of forest in 2012.

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A clearing in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia.
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Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

India lost 840,000 hectares of forest in 2012 compared to 460,000 hectares in Brazil, according to a report in the Nature Climate Change journal. Palm oil, pulp, and paper production has increased greenhouse gas emissions and endangered the local population of tigers.


Deforestation can have serious environmental consequences.

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Haze from forest fires in Queenstown, Singapore.
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Nicky Loh/Getty Images

Slash-and-burn forest fires may be an efficient way to clear land for new plantations, but they pollute the air with haze. Air quality in Queenstown, Singapore, reached unhealthy levels due to slash and burn fires in 2016.


Human carelessness is also a factor in damage to forests, such as the garbage dump in Indonesia’s Pisang Batu River.

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The Pisang Batu River covered in trash.
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Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Nearly half of Indonesia’s annual 3.2 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean, according to a 2015 study.


During the 2019 government shutdown, Joshua Tree National Park in California suffered damage that could take centuries to recover from.

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Graffiti on a rock inside Joshua Tree.
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Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

National parks around the US faced sanitation and vandalism issues during the 2019 government shutdown over President Trump’s proposed border wall because of minimal staffing. Joshua Tree National Park was hit particularly hard, with vandals spraying rocks with graffiti and cutting down its namesake trees. The damage could take 200 to 300 years to repair, The New York Times reported.