The Atlantic

Forest Animals Are Living on the Edge

A new global study reveals the consequences of fragmenting the world’s woodlands.
Source: Paulo Whitaker / Reuters

At the very beginning of his book The Song of the Dodo, the author David Quammen invites us to imagine a fine Persian carpet, which we then slice into 36 equal pieces. “What does it amount to?” he writes. “Have we got 36 nice Persian throw rugs? No. All we’re left with is three dozen ragged fragments, each one worthless and commencing to come apart.” He wrote that almost two decades ago, and it’s still the perfect metaphor for the state of the world’s forests.

Humans chop down an estimated of trees every year, but even that huge number doesn’t fully capture the destruction we inflict. We don’t just destroy forests—we them, turning unbroken stretches of green into ragged patches fraying at the edges. There are only two places on Earth—the Amazon and the Congo—where forests have retained their old, continuous glory. Everything else has been partitioned into green islands, separated not by water but by roads and farmland.

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