Tropical rainforests are increasingly at threat from deforestation. Governments are viewing the rainforests as an untapped resource which can aid them in their quest for economic development. For this section of the syllabus you need to be able to explain the causes and impacts of deforestation with reference to the case study of Malaysia.
Mayalsia’s tropical rainforests
Malaysia is a country in south-east Asia. It is made up of Peninsular (western) Malaysia and Eastern Malaysia. Along with neighbouring countries, the natural vegetation is tropical rainforest. nearly 63% of Malaysia is forested and commericla tree crops, primarily rubber and oil palm, occupy a further 13%. Trees and forest cover an area equivalent to the whole of the UK.
In the past most of the country was covered in primary (virgin – unaffected by the actions of people) rainforest. In Peninsula Mayalsia most of this has now gone and little is left on Borneo. Today an estimated 18% of Malaysia’s forest is virgin forest. Malaysian rainforests support over 5500 species of flowering plants, 2600 species of tree and 1000 species of butterflies. Of the 203 species of mammals, 78% live only in forests.
The rate of deforestation in Malaysia is increasing faster than in any other tropical country in the world, increasing 85% between 1990-2000 and 2000-2005. Since 2000, some 140,200ha of forest have been lost on average each year.
Positive impacts Negative impacts Social
- Poor urban dwellers have had the opportunity to set up businesses and improve their quality of life.
- Better transportation links
- Large scale farming provides food
- Indigenous tribes forced to move
- Area has become economically profitable and has contributed to Malaysia’s GNP
- Profits can be used to improve Malaysia’s infratstructure and level of development
- Profits from the businesses in the area rarely go to local people
- Thousands of hectares of rainforest have been destroyed
- Amount of virgin rainforest cover has decreased dramatically
- Loss of habitats
- Survival of species, including the orang-utan, is threatened
- Malaysia is now a more influential exporter on a global scale