Between 2001 and 2019, Guyana lost 205,000 ha of tree cover, or 1.1% of total tree cover in 2000. In 2019 alone, Guyana lost 22,300 ha of tree cover.
Mining for gold, diamonds and bauxite is currently the largest driver of deforestation in Guyana, which also contaminates the rivers that communities depend on for drinking, bathing and cooking. Much of the gold and diamonds leave Guyana illegally, and are intertwined with drug trafficking and other criminal networks.
While most logging activities are technically legal, there is widespread corruption in both the award and operation of logging concessions in Guyana, leading to frequent cases of loggers taking more timber than their agreement allows or logging outside of their approved concession area. This leads to conflicts between loggers and indigenous communities, and forest law monitoring and enforcement are generally weak.
The expansion of rice and other large-scale agricultural initiatives is a new threat to the Rupununi savannahs.
While Guyana is currently a net carbon sink, with relatively low deforestation, Exxon’s recent discovery of some of the world’s largest offshore oil reserves has the potential to change this status dramatically, bringing an increase in large-scale development projects, including roads, agribusiness and energy infrastructure.