News Release

Deforestation and mass extinction in Haiti

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Primary Forest in a Biodiversity-Rich Region of Haiti, the Massif De La Hotte

image: Primary forest in a biodiversity-rich region of Haiti, the Massif de la Hotte. view more 

Credit: Image courtesy of Claudio Contreras (photographer).

Researchers report near-total loss of primary forest in Haiti and an ongoing mass extinction of endemic species from deforested areas. Key to the preservation of biodiversity is the preservation of intact primary forests, given that the capacity for biodiversity in primary tropical forests exceeds that of forests that have been cleared and replanted. Although individuals continue to decline as primary forests are cleared, mass extinctions may not occur until the last habitats are destroyed. S. Blair Hedges and colleagues analyzed aerial photography and Landsat images of Haiti spanning the years 1988-2016. The authors found that primary forests covered 4.4% of Haiti's land area in 1988, but that the proportion had declined to 0.32% by 2016. Additionally, 42 of the nation's 50 highest peaks had been entirely deforested in the same time period. The trends suggest near-total loss of Haiti's primary forest by 2035. The authors also conducted surveys of vertebrate diversity on Haiti's mountain peaks, finding that species endemic to Haiti have already been lost with the loss of habitat, and that future deforestation may result in up to 83% of Haiti's species becoming extinct between 1986 and 2035 due to deforestation. According to the authors, expanding surveys of primary forest can aid identification of high-priority conservation efforts.


Article #18-09753: "Haiti's biodiversity threatened by nearly complete loss of primary forest," by S. Blair Hedges, Warren Cohen, Joel Timyan, and Zhiqiang Yang.

MEDIA CONTACT: S. Blair Hedges, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA; tel: 814-777-0077, 215-204-4244; e-mail:

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