The tropical rainforests where great apes occur hold some of the most spectacular biodiversity on the planet, and they form incredibly important areas for conservation. Nevertheless, the same habitat that houses chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans—all of whom are classified as endangered or worse -- is among the fastest disappearing forest in the world and is rapidly being converted to other land uses through extractive industries such as logging, mining and agricultural expansion.
Deforestation is responsible for approximately 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is therefore a major contributor to climate change. This accelerated forest loss not only negatively impacts forests and biodiversity, but also local and global ecosystem services such as water supply, human health and food security in addition to climate change mitigation. Much of the deforestation is caused by both illegal and short-term economic gains, often undermining long-term development goals.
It is possible to reconcile the needs of economic progress and biodiversity conservation, however. By using payment for Ecosystem Services schemes (PES) such as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) it is possible to quantify the economic trade-offs between unsustainable and sustainable forms of land use, and create a model that achieves balanced conservation and development objectives and strengthens the resilience of ecosystems.