Home > Level 2 > Question 3

Facts on Forests and Forestry

  NEW: Read GreenFacts' new Digest on Forests:

1 Introduction – Measuring progress towards sustainable forest management
2 How much forest is there on the planet and at what rate is it disappearing?
3 How can forests affect climate change?
4 What is the biological diversity of the world’s forests?
5 How healthy are the world’s forests?
6 What products are extracted from forests?
7 What are the protective effects of forests?
8 What are the economic and social benefits of forests?
9 Are forests managed in a sustainable way?
10 Conclusions

  A faithful summary of the "Global Forest Resources Assessment"
  produced in 2005 by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). More...


Previous Question Level 1 Questions Next Question
Move to top of screen

3. Is the area of forest changing?

The consensus is that there is a continuous loss of forest cover. However this rate of loss varies between temperate and tropical areas. More...

3.1. What is the FAO estimate of losses and gains in forest cover per annum?
3.2. Some differing views about the geography of change

Back to Summary Level 2 Questions More in the Full Study
  Next Sub-Question Top
Move to top of screen

3.1. What is the FAO estimate of losses and gains in forest cover per annum?

According to the FAO, 94,000 km² (0.24%) of forests have been lost yearly from 1990 to 2000. While temperate forests were gaining 29,000 km² per year, tropical forests were losing 123,000 km² per year. This is not an indication of the state of forests but only of their extent. More...

3.1.1. Forest clearance is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history forests have been cleared for agriculture and urban settlements. Since the last Ice Age (8,000 – 10,000 years ago) it is estimated that 20% to 50% of the total forest cover was lost. At first the conversion of forests was mainly in the northern hemisphere (Europe and North America) but tropical deforestation also became significant from the 19th century onwards. More...

3.1.2. The long history of clearance in temperate forests has meant that their present extent is a fraction of their former extent. In contrast, tropical forest loss is more recent. This loss seems to be most rapid in Africa, while in Latin America the deforestation rate is beginning to slow. One great concern is the particularly rapid loss of ‘frontier forests’. More...

Back to Summary Level 2 Questions More in the Full Study
Move to top of screen

3.2. Some differing views about the geography of change

The loss in tropical forests is subject to debate. FAO calculates a net loss of tropical forests of 123,000 km² per year. WRI gives a higher estimate of 160,000 km² per year. Emily Mathews of the WRI bases some calculations on the FAO FRA 2000 report to reach the conclusion that the average rate of loss in tropical forest area is 0.87% per year for the period 1990-2000. More...

3.2.1. Much of the variation in global forest cover estimates has to do with the inclusion or exclusion of planted forests, both in temperate and tropical areas. Do planted forests have the same ecological function as natural forests? In fact, plantations are often planted with single species, and treated with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. Silvicultural measures are frequently used and the understory is suppressed to maximize the yield. This plantation scenario often takes place where old-growth forests have been logged. More...

3.2.2. Estimates of forest loss have varied considerably. During the 1970s and 1980s, over-pessimistic estimates of forest losses varied from 2.3% to a high estimate of 4.8% annually. In the 1970s, deforestation was highlighted as one of the most dramatic and urgent environmental issues. Current figures proposed range from 316,000 km² a year (Grist Magazine) to almost zero (Bjørn Lomborg). With a few exceptions, most reliable estimates of deforestation now converge around a figure for a net annual global loss of forest of an order of magnitude of between 0.5% and 0.9% (120,000 km² to 160,000 km² each year). In temperate areas, the area of forestland seems to be stable or even increasing with an expansion of plantations and reforestation, although there continues to be a loss of natural forest. In the tropics, there continues to be significant loss of forest which is not compensated for by reforestation or natural regrowth. More...

Back to Summary Level 2 Questions More in the Full Study
Previous question Level 1 Questions

Next question
Send this page  Subscribe to GreenFacts newsletter Download this Digest

  Read GreenFacts' recent Digests:

Provided by GreenFacts  


Contact | Copyright Top