Forests provide priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits yet they are currently being decimated at a rate of 13 million hectares annually. This is about more than habitat loss for animals, plants and insects or even the livelihoods of one quarter of the world’s population. Deforestation is also a leading cause of climate change. Forests account for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
According to the “Forest Resources Assessment 2005” by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, in 1990 there were 4,077,498 ha of forest cover as of 2005 that
shrunk to 3,953,063. Between 1990 and 2000 we were losing 8,885 ha per
year and between 2000 and 2005 we were still losing 7,317 ha per year.
From 1990 to 1995, close to one million square kilometers of forest were
destroyed, primarily in Russia, South America, and Africa. Each day at
least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear from Earth. At least
another 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest are degraded.
Overall, FAO estimates that 10.4 million hectares of
tropical forest were permanently destroyed each year in the period from
2000 to 2005, an increase since the 1990-2000 period, when around 10.16
million hectares of forest were lost.
While we hear a great deal about reforestation it accounts for only a small percentage of the forests destroyed each year. According to United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) “World Culture Report: 1998,” during the period between 1990 – 1995, reforestation accounted for only 11% of the deforestation amount, meaning the world regenerated only a single tree for every ten burned down.
Total deforestation at the 1990 to 1995 rates eliminated approximately 45-50 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption per year. (This is based on the very general assumption that 2.9 tons of CO2 are absorbed per average hectare of “forest”). Reforestation at the 1990 to 1995 rates added back the capability to absorb just 5.5 million tons per year. It is worth noting that the total output of greenhouse gas production in 2000 was approximately 7 billion tons.
The United States contributed more to reforestation than any other country: it added 29,000 net sq. km. of forest from 1990 to 1995 or 31% of the world’s total reforestation effort. Other leading reforesters were Uzbekistan (11,000 sq. km.), Kazakhstan (10,000 sq. km.), Canada (9,000 sq. km.), and France (8,000 sq. km.). A leading proponent of the “green” movement, Germany, had no net reforestation. The principal five countries along this dimension accounted for 71% of total reforestation.
Among primary forests, annual deforestation rose to 6.26 million hectares from 5.41 million hectares in the same period. On a broader scale, FAO data shows that primary forests are being replaced by less biodiverse plantations and secondary forests. Due to a significant increase in plantation forests, forest cover has generally been expanding in North America, Europe, and China while diminishing in the tropics. Industrial logging, conversion for agriculture (commercial and subsistence), and forest fires—often purposely set by people—are responsible for the bulk of global deforestation today.
Using data provided by the FAO & Mongabay has put together several useful charts.
Here are two:
Managing Deforestation Through Policy and Monitoring
The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food
The Business of Forests: Primer, Tool, Guide and Best Practices
The Business of Responsible Forest Stewardship
Woodland Crops: Sustainable Harvests from Forests
International Day of Forests
Video – Forests = Life
A Visual Representation of Global Forest Change
International Forest Day 2013
NASA Imagery Shows Trees are Dying in US Forests
Infographic – Forests and Land Use
2012 Review of Forests and Trees
The Economic and Employment Benefits of Forests
Study Shows Deforestation of Tropical Rainforest Decreases Precipitation
Study Shows that Climate Change is Killing Forests
Using Trees for Electricity is Not Green Energy
What The Business Community Can Do To Protect Forests
The Costs of Illegal Logging
The Lacey Act Combats Illegal Logging
Challenge to the Lacey Act
Scientists Defend the Lacey Act
Video: Reducing Emissions Through Forest Preservation with REDD
Arbor Day Business Partners