Some of world's forests recovering, but net loss persists: FAO

March 15, 2007
ROME (AFP) -- Forests are expanding in several regions of the world but each day sees a net loss equivalent to an area twice the size of Paris, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Tuesday.

From 2000 to 2005, 57 countries reported an increase in forest area, and 83 reported a decrease, the Rome-based agency said as it unveiled its annual forestry report. However, the net forest loss remains at 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) per year or 20,000 hectares per day, said the report titled "The State of the World's Forests."

"A number of regions of the world are reversing centuries of deforestation and are now showing an increase in forest area," the FAO said in an accompanying statement.

The report stressed that economic prosperity and careful forest management were key factors in saving forests, noting that more than 100 countries have national forest programs.

"Many countries have shown the political will to improve forest management by revising policies and legislation and strengthening forestry institutions," said FAO number two David Harcharik. He added, however: "Countries that are facing the most serious challenges in achieving sustainable forest management are those with the highest rates of poverty and civil conflict."

The report also warned of growing evidence that forests will be profoundly affected by climate change, notably with a greater incidence of fire, pests and diseases.

Global forest covers about 30 percent of the world's land area. From 1990 to 2005, the world lost three percent of its total forest area, an average decrease of some 0.2 percent per year, according to FAO data.

Ten countries account for 80 percent of the world's primary forests, of which Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Brazil saw the highest losses in primary forest in the five years from 2000 to 2005.

Europe and North America showed net increases in forest area over the same period, while Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean are the two regions with the highest losses.

Africa, which accounts for about 16 percent of the total global forest area, lost over nine percent of its forests between 1990 and 2005.

Latin America and the Caribbean, with nearly half of the world's forests, saw an increase in the annual net loss between 2000 and 2005, from 0.46 percent to 0.51 percent, the report said.