Losing Forests, Not So Fast

Forest management is looking up, from the U.S. to Europe to China.© GETTY IMAGES

A recently released report by the United Nations" Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that the world’s forests are shrinking, but not as fast as in previous tallies. According to the FAO’s "State of the World’s Forests 2007," economic prosperity and careful forest management have played a role in slowing the global rate of forest loss.

One positive sign highlighted in the report is that economic development is on the whole beneficial for forest cover, as wealthier countries are more likely to establish conservation policies. Tree-planting efforts in China and India, for example, have played an important role in mitigating pollution and conserving soil, water and biodiversity. Despite massive forest destruction across Indonesia, the Asia-Pacific region produced a net increase in the amount of forested land between 2000 and 2005. The U.S. and several European countries also posted gains in forest area during the years under study.

"Many countries have shown the political will to improve forest management by revising policies and legislation and strengthening forestry institutions," said FAO’s Deputy Director-General David Harcharik. "Increasing attention is being paid to the conservation of soil, water, biological diversity and other environmental values, but countries that are facing the most serious challenges in achieving sustainable forest management are those with the highest rates of poverty and civil conflict." According to the report, 10 countries account for 80 percent of the world’s forests. And Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Brazil saw the highest losses in primary forest between 2000 and 2005.

Source: FAO Newsroom