More Effort Needed to Save the World’s Forests

On the 4th of October 2010 the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United nations (FAO) released the Forest Resources Assessment 2010 at the start of the latest Biennial meeting of the FAO committee on forestry and World Forest Week. It is by far the most comprehensive report about the forests of the world with inputs from 233 countries worldwide and studies spread over a 20 year period from 1990 to 2010. Representatives from 100 plus countries have assembled at the FAO head quarters in Rome.

Documentation for FRA 2010 includes 233 country reports, available online. Complementing the main report will be a series of special studies on topical issues as well as a global remote sensing survey of changes on forest biomes between 1990 and 2005, scheduled for completion in 2011.

Most of the losses of forest happen in countries in the tropical region, while most of the gains take place in temperate and boreal zones. Furthermore, many emerging economies have moved from net loss to net gain of forest area. These results highlight the key role of economic development in reversing global deforestation.

Check out the percentage of forests worldwide:

The study concludes that the rate of deforestation, while still alarming in many countries, is slowing down at the global level, and that afforestation and natural expansion in some countries and regions have further reduced the net loss of forests.

In the main section of this report, results are presented according to the seven thematic elements of sustainable forest management:
• extent of forest resources;
• forest biological diversity;
• forest health and vitality;
• productive functions of forest resources;
• protective functions of forest resources;
• socio-economic functions of forests;
• legal, policy and institutional framework.

Key Findings:

  • Forests cover 31 percent of total land area i.e 4 billion hectares. The five most forest-rich countries (the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China) account for more than half of the total forest area.
  • Deforestation – mainly the conversion of tropical forest to agricultural land – shows signs of decreasing in several countries but continues at a high rate in others. In the last decade 13million hectares of forest was converted into agricultural land, which is lower than 16million hectares per year in the 1990’s (much higher than earlier estimates).
  • Large Scale Planting of trees has significantly reduced net loss of forest area world over.
  • South America and Africa have the largest net loss of forest.
  • An increase in forest area can also happen in two ways: either through afforestation (i.e. planting of trees on land that was not previously forested) or through natural expansion of forests (e.g. on abandoned agricultural land, a process which is quite common in some European countries).
  • Estimates made for FRA 2010 show that the world’s forests store 289 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in their biomass alone!!
  • On a global average, more than one-third of all forest is primary forest, i.e. forest of native species where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes have not been significantly disturbed.
  • Close to 1.2 billion hectares of forest are managed primarily for the production of wood and non-wood forest products.
  • At the global level, reported wood removals amounted to 3.4 billion cubic metres annually in the period 2003–2007, similar to the volume recorded for 1990 and equivalent to 0.7 percent of the total growing stock. (In reality the numbers must be higher as firewood is not a monitored commodity).
  • Around 330 million hectares of forest are designated for soil and water conservation, avalanche control, sand dune stabilization, desertification control or coastal protection.

The FAO wants the world to take more action to preserve the existing forests, which means more awareness against logging and other human interferences in the remaining primary forests, planting more trees etc.

Source – If you have the time do check out the detailed FRA2010 Report HERE

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