Roads, Canals, Power Lines — Biggest Threat To World Rainforests

Scientists at James Cook University and Smithsonian Institution have identified infrastructure such as roads, canals, power lines and gas lines as potentially posing the biggest threat to the world’s tropical rainforests.


“Clearing wide paths in any forest has a strong effect on the ecosystem, but these impacts are particularly acute in tropical rainforests,” said Professor William Laurance, a Distinguished Professor at James Cook University and co-author of a paper on the impact of roads in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

The other authors of the paper are Dr Susan Laurance, a biologist from the Smithsonian and Dr Miriam Goosem, a senior lecturer at James Cook.

Dr Goosem said the team used dozens of existing studies done in the Amazon, Australasia and Central Africa to emphasize that roads are the number one threat to the world’s tropical rainforests.

“We believe that maintaining large areas of intact forests without roads should be highest priority of conservationists worldwide,” she said, adding that some species strongly avoid forest edges and are unable to traverse even narrow forest clearings.

“Other tropical species are susceptible to hunting, increased predation, invasive species and being killed by vehicles.”

She said that limiting the width of roads, reducing vehicle speeds and maintaining a continuous forest canopy above roads were ways to reduce the impact on tropical rainforests.

Meanwhile, Dr Susan Laurance said animals see roads as barriers. “A striking feature of tropical forests is the high proportion of species that tend to avoid even narrow clearings or forest edges. Many species – such as those that are completely arboreal, adapted to flying in dense forests, or depend on specialized food resources – are halted by linear clearings.”

There are those species, however, that do not avoid roads or other such clearings, resulting in what the scientists call “road-related mortality.”

[The original press release, titled "Roads top threat to rainforests" can be found here]

Rainforest News and Borneo Blog Portal

As part of its “expansion” process, Borneo Blog will now bring to you rainforest news around the world.

World rainforest distribution

World rainforest distribution

As you can see from the map below, Borneo forms a significant part of the world’s total distribution of tropical rainforest, which supplies 28 per cent of world’s oxygen and regarded as the planet’s largest pharmacy. All rainforest news, from the Amazon to the Southern Yucatan Peninsula, Papua New Guinea to Sub-Saharan Africa, will be filed under the “Rainforest News” category.

Borneo Blog Portal

I’ve also started a new project under the Borneo Blog called the Borneo Blog Portal, which aggregates blogs run by Borneo bloggers — Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan bloggers.

The “Borneo Blog Portal” is now live online as a Borneo Blog sub-domain to at If it takes off successfully, it may get its own domain name in the future.

How to join Borneo Blog Portal

Here’s how, email me at jaxonsblog [at] or use the contact form here to submit your blog’s address. I will then review the submissions and if everything is in order, your blog or blogs can be accepted into the portal within 24 hours.

Your blog or blogs must have a valid syndication feed to be featured in the portal.

Here’s the deal

Once your blog is accepted, your blog entries, starting with the latest, will start appearing on the portal in the form of excerpts. Clicking on the excerpts will bring visitors to your site. The excerpts will remain in the portal for about three months.

In exchange of this, I ask a small favour that you put a link to Borneo Blog Portal — a text link will do — in your blog.

One last thing, your blog must be in English or mostly in English. The portal is now aggregating three blogs, including Borneo Blog. All suggestions are welcome.