Each year about 13 million hectares of the world’s forests are lost due to deforestation, but the rate of net forest loss is slowing down, thanks to new planting and natural expansion of existing forests, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced today.
The annual net loss of forest area between 2000 and 2005 was 7.3 million hectares/year – an area about the size of Sierra Leone or Panama – down from an estimated 8.9 million ha/yr between 1990 and 2000. This is equivalent to a net loss of 0.18 per cent of the world’s forests annually.
These are some of the key findings of The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005 (FRA 2005), the most comprehensive assessment to date of forest resources, their uses and value, covering 229 countries and territories between 1990 and 2005.
"This assessment allows us to gauge the important role of the world’s forest resources in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, in particular in meeting the targets set for reducing poverty and ensuring a sustainable global environment," said Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department.
"It provides a comprehensive update on how we manage and use our forests, and shows that while good progress is being made in many places, unfortunately forest resources are still being lost or degraded at an alarmingly high rate," he added.
Forests now cover nearly 4 billion hectares or 30 per cent of the world’s land area, but 10 countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Indonesia, Peru, the Russian Federation and the United States – account for two thirds of all forest area.
South America suffered the largest net loss of forests between 2000 and 2005 – around 4.3 million hectares per year – followed by Africa, which lost 4.0 million hectares annually, according to FAO.
Oceania had a net loss of 356 000 ha/year in 2000-2005, while Nor Central America together had a net loss of 333 000 ha/yr. Asia moved from a net loss of around 800 000 ha per year in the 1990s to a net gain of one million hectares per year between 2000 and 2005, primarily as a result of large-scale afforestation reported by China. Forest areas in Europe continued to expand, although at a slower rate than in the 1990s.
The data for the report was provided to FAO by national governments and resource assessment specialists, with more than 800 people involved in the entire process, including 172 national assessment teams, according to Mette Løyche Wilkie, who coordinated the effort.
"The outcome of this global partnership is better data, a more transparent reporting process and enhanced capacity to analyze and report on forests and forest resources," she said, adding that the findings will support decision-making on the issue.