By Rhett Butler   |   Last updated August 15, 2014

Cambodia has one of the worst deforestation rates in the world. Since 1970, Cambodia's primary rainforest cover went from over 70 percent in 1970 to 3.1 percent today. Worse, Cambodia's deforestation has been accelerating over the past decade, largely a product of industrial plantation expansion, logging, and conversion for agriculture.

According to research led by Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, just over 40 percent of Cambodia is densely forested. The country's deforestation of roughly one percent a year between 2000 and 2012 gives it the fourth highest deforestation rate among major forest countries.

Cambodia is home to more than 521 species of birds, 127 mammals, and 116 reptiles.

Total forest areaDense forest areaForest gainForest lossTotal land area
>10% tree cover (ha)% total land cover>50% tree cover (ha)% total land cover2001-2012 (ha)% total forest cover2001-2012 (ha)% total forest cover(ha)
Banteay Meanchey6236610.2%276034.5%1107217.8%1461523.4%614428
Kampong Cham24576326.4%16232617.4%8911836.3%8099133.0%931550
Kampong Chhnang15470029.5%9823818.7%5472335.4%70774.6%525066
Kampong Speu23011933.8%16518924.3%11036648.0%3359114.6%680989
Kampong Thom72329558.4%61724749.8%52479072.6%15757721.8%1238883
Koh Kong113596892.8%107413687.8%100974188.9%751306.6%1223806
Krong Pailin7413968.1%6312758.0%4114155.5%3451146.5%108810
Krong Preah Sihanouk8972864.4%7970957.2%6852576.4%1590617.7%139337
Oddar Meanchey25486948.8%12939424.8%8225332.3%4875019.1%521922
Phnom Penh15014.3%5391.5%1097.3%624.1%35173
Preah Vihear110738979.0%60090942.8%38938235.2%494704.5%1402605
Prey Veng58911.3%24800.5%102417.4%77913.2%468317
Siem Reap64353853.8%44054036.8%29155745.3%12313119.1%1196903
Stung Treng99722584.9%77690466.1%65493165.7%784237.9%1174953
Svay Rieng149245.2%55291.9%176311.8%302720.3%285315

Historical drivers of deforestation

The civil war —which ran from the 1970s to the mid 1990s—is responsible for setting the stage for illegal logging. During the conflict, each warring faction financed fighting through timber sales. According to the Trade and Environment Database (TED), the Cambodian government exported mostly to Japan and Vietnam, while the three guerrilla groups (including the Khmer Rouge) sent logs to Thailand. Thai timber companies—often with the involvement of military officials— were found to be actively engaged in logging of forests along the Cambodian border.

During the 1990s, illegal logging was so widespread in Cambodia that the IMF canceled a $120 million loan and the World Bank suspended direct aid to the government until the corruption in the forestry sector was resolved. In response, the government moved to crack down on logging operations while issuing bans on unprocessed log exports and imports of logging equipment. The actions appear to have had little effect: between 2000 and 2005, Cambodia lost nearly 30 percent of its primary forest cover.

Deforestation in Cambodia also results from subsistence activities, notably the collection of fuelwood and clearing for agriculture. The hunting of wildlife as bushmeat is widespread in the country, while mining for gold, bauxite, and iron is increasingly a threat to Cambodia's forests as well. The government has recently introduced stricter legislation to govern small miners, including environmental provisions.

While the Cambodian government has struggled to enforce environmental regulations in the face of corruption and illegal activities, it has shown interest in reducing deforestation and setting up protected areas. On paper, more than 20 percent of Cambodia is under some form of protection, including the spectacular ruins of Ankor, which cover over some 400 square kilometers and are one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. However, even this World Heritage site is threatened by unrestrained tourism, experienced rapid hotel development in the early to mid 2000s.

Charts showing forest data and deforestation in Cambodia

Chart: aggregate forest loss in Cambodia
Chart: aggregate forest loss in Cambodia

Forest loss by province
Forest loss by province in Cambodia

Forest loss by province in Cambodia
Annual forest loss by province in Cambodia

Cambodia forest cover by province
Cambodia forest cover by province

Cambodia forest cover
Cambodia forest cover

Pictures of Cambodia

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Cambodia Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 10,447,000 ha
% of land area: 59.2%

Primary forest cover: 322,000 ha
% of land area: 1.8%
% total forest area: 3.1%

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -218,800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -2.0%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 74.7%
Total forest loss since 1990: -2,499,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-19.3%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -26800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -5.9%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 45.2%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -334,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-84.1%

Forest Classification
Public: 100%
Private: 0%
Other: 0%
Production: 32.3%
Protection: 3.9%
Conservation: 21.3%
Social services: 0.9%
Multiple purpose: 3.9%
None or unknown: 37.8

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 10,447,000 ha
Primary: 122,000 ha
Modified natural: 10,266,000 ha
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: 59,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a

Plantations, 2005: 59,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 0.6%
Annual change rate (00-05): -2,600,000 ha

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 1,904 M t
Below-ground biomass: 628 M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: n/a
Insects: n/a
Diseases: n/a

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 862
Critically endangered: 10
Endangered: 13
Vulnerable: 9

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): $21,586,000
Total Value: $21,586,000

More forest statistics for Cambodia

Suggested reading - Books

CIA-World Factbook Profile
FAO-Forestry Profile
World Resources Institute