Bukit Tagar, Malaysia

Bukit Tagar is a small hill situated just west of the main KL-Ipoh highway and just north of Bukit Beruntung. Like many other forested areas close to the city of Kuala Lumpur this area has been drastically deforested. This deforestation is sometimes done to allow housing or commercial developments or sometimes to regrow the area with palm oil trees which is a huge business in Malaysia.

Palm oil factory billow out smoke

The timber industry in Malaysia is big business and, with the rampant corruption and lack of Government control, scenes like these are common place with large swathes of woodland cut down leaving ugly scars on the landscape.

Forest cover has fallen dramatically since the 1970s. The rate is accelerating faster than that of any other tropical country in the world. The FAO says that only 11.6 percent of the forests that cover Malaysia are considered pristine. Between 1990 and 2010, Malaysia lost an average of 96,000 ha or 0.43% per year.

Malaysia had the world’s highest rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2012, according to a new global forest map developed in partnership with Google.

Malaysia’s forest loss was partly offset by a 25,978 sq km gain in vegetation cover resulting from natural recovery, reforestation, and establishment of industrial timber and oil palm plantations. During the period, Malaysia’s oil palm estate grew by roughly 50 percent or 17,000 sq km.

But tree plantations don’t stack up well to natural forests into terms of biodiversity, carbon storage, or maintenance of ecosystem services, indicating that Malaysia suffered very extensive decline of its natural capital base. Most of Malaysia’s forest loss occurred in its densest forests, those with tree cover exceeding 50 percent, which generally store the most carbon and are richest with wildlife

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