Global Forests Set to Return? Study Gives Cause for Optimism

Unsruprisingly, Treehuggers love trees. The usual pessimistic headlines about the state of the world's forests can make for pretty depressing reading. Imagine our delight then, to read here on the BBC website about a new study that claims things aren't quite as bad as they seem. In fact, the research suggests we may be reaching a tipping point where the world moves from deforestation towards restoration — possibly increasing global forest cover by as much as 10%, or an area the size of India.The researchers used new methods to evaluate the state of forests, looking not only at surface area covered, but also at the volume of timber, biomass, and the amount of carbon captured within the area. The overall picture is much more encouraging than previous studies, with many countries such as China, Vietnam and the US experiencing an increase in forest density. Others however, are still losing forest cover and density at an alarming rate — Indonesia and Brazil are singled out as particularly bad examples.

Encouragingly, the study seems to show that countries can move beyond deforestation, even as their population and standard of living rise. The graph to the left, for example, shows the correlation between the state of France's forest stocks and its population.

Pekka Kauppi, the lead researcher on the study, says there are grounds to be cautiously optimistic, but that the fight agains deforestation is far from over:

"Without depopulation or impoverishment, increasing numbers of countries are experiencing transitions in forest area and density. While complacency would be misplaced, our insights provide grounds for optimism about the prospects for returning forests."

So it's up to all of us to prove these guys right. Anyone buying FSC products, anyone boycotting Kimberly-Clark, or reforesting their valley to prevent flooding can take pride, knowing that they may be playing a key role in leading the world from an age of ecological destruction to and age of environmental restoration. We can but try.

Full details of the study can be found on the University of Helsinki website here.

[Written by: Sami Grover]