SURINAME (Surinam)

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Suriname Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 14,776,000 ha
% of land area: 94.7%

Primary forest cover: 14,214,000 ha
% of land area: 91.1%
% total forest area: 96.2%

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in defor. rate since '90s: n/a
Total forest loss since 1990: n/a
Total forest loss since 1990:0.0%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:0.0%

Forest Classification
Public: 99.7%
Private: 0.3%
Other: n/a
Production: 27.1%
Protection: n/a
Conservation: 12.8%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 3.3%
None or unknown: 56.8

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 14,776,000 ha
Primary: 14,214,000 ha
Modified natural: 550,000 ha
Semi-natural: 5,000 ha
Production plantation: 7,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a

Plantations, 2005: 7,000 ha
% of total forest cover: n.s.%
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 8,016 M t
Below-ground biomass: 3,367 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: 600
Critically endangered: 1
Endangered: 2
Vulnerable: 24

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 200,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 5,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $15,000,000
Wood fuel: $60,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $15,060,000

More forest statistics for Suriname

This page was last updated in 2006. For more up-to-date information, please see Mongabay's
Suriname news feed nand Global Forest Watch.

Suriname's extensive forest cover and low population, about 400,000 concentrated in the capital and coastal cities, give it one of the lowest deforestation rates in the world. Only 5 percent of the population lives in the rainforest; this includes Indigenous peoples and six tribes of Maroons—descendants of escaped slaves who recreated forest communities centuries ago and today retain their traditional West African style (ironic since West Africa's rainforests are depleted). Conflicts between the coastal population and the natives of the forested interior manifested themselves in a bloody six-year civil war that was resolved in 1992 with the signing of a peace treaty. Under the treaty, the interior and Indigenous populations have the right to their Indigenous lands and to control economic activity on those lands.

Despite being ranked by the World Bank as among the 17 potentially richest countries in the world, given its gold, oil, diamond, and other natural resources, Suriname in the early 1990s was in a dire economic situation. It had virtually no international trade, dilapidated industries, no foreign aid, and a budget with spending exceeding revenues by 150 percent.

By the mid-1990s, the government—desperate for cash—granted large concessions to foreign timber and mining interests. Some 25 percent of the country was put up for logging by Malaysian and Indonesian timber firms. The terms of the agreement, full of loopholes, granted forest land at less than $35 an acre ($262 m for 7.5 m acres). Analysis of the figures showed that while loggers stood to make more than US$28 million annually over the 25-year concession, Suriname would only earn get US$2 million per year. Further, according to forestry experts, the only profitable way to log regions in Suriname is by clear-cutting.

In late 1995 widespread protests by a coalition of Indigenous maroons, environmentalists, and the local timber industry helped foil part of a deal that would have further expanded a concession owned by MUSA of Indonesia. Nevertheless, MUSA continued to log other concessions with abandon. According to local reports, the company's close relationship with legislators allowed it to escape prosecution for violating existing forestry regulations.

On Oct. 7, 1997, the Surinamese government established a forestry project to monitor and control logging in addition to setting aside new protected areas. The controversy and pressure inspired by the plan to hand out giant logging concessions to Berjaya, MUSA, and Suri Atlantic in 1995 made the government more cautious about granting logging concessions, and it subsequently refused a number of timber concession applications. In June 1998, the government announced the establishment of the Central Suriname Wilderness Nature Reserve, covering 1,592,000 hectares.

While the giant concessions granted in 1995 did not come to fruition in the late 1990s, several smaller concessions were actively logged. Outdated forestry laws—which provided very little revenue for the government per log harvested (one cent per log according to a report from—meant that the forest service was chronically unstaffed, concession monitoring was poor, and enforcement was lax. This appears to be still the case today, and corruption in the forest service is also a major problem.

According to FAO data, in 2002 Suriname produced 203,000 cubic meters of industrial roundwood, sawnwood, and wood-based panels; 35,000 cubic meters of this was exported, suggesting that logging is indeed still occurring today. In August 2003, an International Tropical Timber Organization mission observed that "despite the best efforts of the Government of Suriname, the country is still far from implementing sustainable forest management, in part because of insufficient institutional capacity."

A second major cause of concern to environmentalists is the developing mining sector. Suriname is known to have rich deposits of gold and bauxite, and mining companies working in the country have checkered pasts with regards to human rights and environmental safeguards. One company, Golden Star Resources of Canada, was responsible for a massive cyanide spill in neighboring Guyana in 1995 and caused the forceable eviction of hundreds of local people.

Suriname's inexpensive power costs make it attractive to the energy-intensive aluminum business. In the 1960s, the Alcoa aluminum company built a dam at Afobaka, which flooded 1,560 square kilometers (600 square miles) of forest and created one of the largest artificial lakes in the world.

All these developments suggest deforestation is likely on the rise in Suriname, but deforestation figures for the country are spotty. The FAO has not updated its forestry statistics for Suriname since 1990.

The Surinamese government has recently taken steps to bolster its nascent eco-tourism industry. More than 12 percent of the country is now protected—at least on paper—and the government has forged a bioprospecting relationship with Bristol-Myers Squibb, a U.S. pharmaceutical company. Reportedly, the agreement will provide royalties to local peoples from any derived drugs. Russ Mittermier, head of Conservation International, which has a large presence in the country, estimates that revenue from drug sales would bring in far more than logging for the people of Suriname. The trade in rattan-like vines for furniture and other renewable forest products is growing.

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Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]

Other resources

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CIA-World Factbook Profile
FAO-Forestry Profile

Last updated: 6 Feb 2006