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During the inauguration of the XIV World Forestry Congress in the South African city of Durban, the Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, pointed out that “deforestation has continued but its pace has slowed. it has reduced even though more forest products are being used today than ever before ”.
The 2015 report on the world's forest resources argues that forest area continues to shrink as populations grow and demand for food and land intensifies.
However, it acknowledges that the annual rate of forest destruction has fallen by more than 50% in the last five years, when the rate was 0.08%, compared to the 1990s, when it was 0.18%. .
This change is due to the fact that the deforestation rate has decreased in some countries and in others the area of forests has increased, an “important” evolution considering that in recent years both the annual extraction of wood and the number of trees have increased. population.
The study highlights that the greatest loss of forest area occurred in the tropics, especially in South America and Africa.
Forests, which in 2015 amounted to slightly less than 4,000 million hectares, allow to absorb carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
But its degradation and its conversion worldwide into land destined for other uses such as agriculture has led to the reduction of global carbon stocks in forest biomass by almost 17.4 gigatons in the last 25 years (the equivalent of 2, 5 gigatons of carbon dioxide).
Deforestation or forest conversion is a difficult phenomenon to measure, even through satellite images, and at the same time complicated because the gains and losses of forest occur continuously.
In addition, there are large differences between changes in the area of natural forests and that of planted forests, according to the report.
The bulk of the world's forest is natural, which has been reduced from 8.5 million hectares per year (from 1990 to 2000) to 6.6 million per year in the last five years, a trend that will presumably continue in the future, especially in the tropics.
For its part, the planted forest area has increased by more than 110 million hectares in the last 25 years and represents 7% of the world's forest area.
In 2015, 30% of the world's forests had a productive function and around a quarter had multiple uses, supplying wood, grasslands, non-wood forest products, water, places of recreation and conditions for the management of flora and fauna wild.
Precisely the conservation of biodiversity constitutes the main objective of forest management in 13% of the world's forests, while those destined to the protection of soil and water are equivalent to 25% of the total forest area.
The study highlights that there has been "substantial" progress towards sustainable forest management, as plans, monitoring, certification and statistics related to forests in general have increased.
Likewise, the area of forest destined for permanent forest use by governments and private owners has grown, among which the case of China stands out, where there has been a large-scale reforestation by natural expansion and plantation.
Despite efforts, the report warns that unsustainable practices and deforestation continue, while in some countries local communities still do not benefit enough from forests.