Worldwide deforestation has more than halved since 1990, but...

Some good news for a change!

A recent report by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, they love their acronyms) provides us with both good news and bad news. The positive first: Since 1990, the rate of deforestation around the world has slowed down more than 50%, which is a significant development. Now the not so positive: Despite this deceleration in the rate of deforestation, there is still a net loss of forests each year. While in the 1990s that rate was about 0.18% per year, it is still now about 0.08% per year on average over the past five years.

indonesia deforestation photoGlenn Hurowitz/CC BY-ND 2.0

0.08% might not sound like much, but when you consider the total area covered by forests around the world, a small fraction of a very big number is still a big number. Not only that, but a small percentage repeated year after year after year, over decades and decades, adds up to a very large amount: "The FAO report estimates that 129 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990 - that amounts to an area roughly equivalent to the size of Peru," writes DW.

The goal is not just to stop deforestation for this year, but for centuries out into the future as well.

Conservation efforts are certainly helping. An additional 150 million hectares of forest lands have been granted protected status since 1990, and during that same period, area that were already protected have grown in size by around 200 million hectares.

Deforestation in BoliviaDeforestation in Bolivia/Public Domain

These numbers hide some troubling realities, though. A lot of new forested areas are being planted by humans, often for commercial purposes. More than 110 million hectares of new, man-made forest has been created since 1990, and now constitute 7% of the world's forest area. Mathematically, if so many planted forests are being created, this means that natural forests are still being destroyed rapidly, and they are almost assuredly more valuable, from a biodiversity point of view, than young, less diverse 'planted' forests.

As pointed out in our piece about how many trees there are on Earth, we are still cutting down 15 billion trees a year, so we still have a lot of work to do...

Via United Nations (pdf), DW

Tags: Deforestation | Trees

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