Environment Counts | Global deforestation detailed in UN reports on World’s forests
Author: Rick Higgins – Published At: 2012-01-06 16:02 – (1105 Reads)
The world’s total forest area is just over four billion hectares or 31 percent of the total land area. The UN designated 2011 the International Year of Forests. Deforestation is a major global environmental issue. The FAO (the UN agency responsible for forests) has published two new reports on global forests: State of the World’s Forests 2011; and Global Forest Resources 2010. The two reports draw on each other and include interesting data on deforestation which is detailed globally, by region and by country. Global Forest Assessment – FAO
Overall the FAO concludes “World deforestation, mainly the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land, has decreased over the past ten years, but continues at an alarmingly high rate in many countries, FAO announced today.
“Globally, around 13 million hectares of forests were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year between 2000 and 2010 as compared to around 16 million hectares per year during the 1990s, according to key findings of FAO’s most comprehensive forest review to date The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010. The study covers 233 countries and areas.
“Brazil and Indonesia, which had the highest loss of forests in the 1990s, have significantly reduced their deforestation rates. In addition, ambitious tree planting programmes in countries such as China, India, the United States and Viet Nam – combined with natural expansion of forests in some regions – have added more than seven million hectares of new forests annually. As a result the net loss of forest area was reduced to 5.2 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2010, down from 8.3 million hectares annually in the 1990s.
“The world’s total forest area is just over four billion hectares or 31 percent of the total land area. The net annual loss of forests (when the sum of all gains in forest area is smaller than all losses) in 2000-2010 is equivalent to an area about the size of Costa Rica.
Biggest losses in South America, Africa
“South America and Africa had the highest net annual loss of forests in 2000-2010, with four and 3.4 million hectares respectively. Oceania also registered a net loss, due partly to severe drought in Australia since 2000.
“Asia, on the other hand, registered a net gain of some 2.2 million hectares annually in the last decade, mainly because of large-scale afforestation programmes in China, India and Viet Nam, which have expanded their forest area by a total of close to four million hectares annually in the last five years. However, conversion of forested lands to other uses continued at high rates in many countries.
“In North and Central America, the forest area remained fairly stable, while in Europe it continued to expand, although at a slower rate than previously”
Other key findings include :
- “Brazil lost an average of 2.6 million hectares of forest annually in the last ten years as compared with 2.9 million hectares per year in the 1990s while Indonesia’s figures were respectively 0.5 and 1.9 million hectares per year.
- Primary forests account for 36 percent of total forest area but have decreased by more than 40 million ha since 2000. This is largely due to reclassification of primary forest to “other naturally regenerated forests” because of selective logging or other human interventions.
- The area of forest in national parks, wilderness areas and other legally protected areas has increased by more than 94 million hectares since 1990 and it now equals 13 percent of the total forest area.
- Forests are among the world’s chief carbon sinks. They store some 289 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in trees and vegetation. The carbon stored in forest biomass, deadwood, litter and soil together is more than all the carbon in the atmosphere. Globally, carbon stocks in forest biomass decreased by an estimated 0.5 Gt a year in 2000-2010, mainly due to a reduction in total forest area.
- Fires, pests and diseases are causing increased damage to forests in some countries. On average, one percent of all forests was reported to be significantly affected each year by forest fires. Outbreaks of forest insects damage some 35 million hectares of forest annually. Extreme weather events such as storms, blizzards and earthquakes also took a heavy toll in the past decade.
- Seventy-six countries have issued or updated their forest policies since 2000 and 69 countries – primarily in Europe and Africa – have enacted or amended their forest laws since 2005.” FAO news release