Deforestation is a driving force behind global warming and species decline. Between 1990 and 2000, an average of 83,000 square kilometers of forests were lost per year. Between 2000 and 2010, this figure slowed to 52,000 square kilometers. The United Nations recently announced that this year will be the International Year of Forests.
The beginning of the International Year of Forests began with the release of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report State of the World’s Forests. The report detailed the gain of forested lands in Asia, particularly China, Vietnam, the Philippines and India. An increase was seen in Europe and North America as well. Such gains have led to a significant slowdown in deforestation worldwide.
However, decreases continue to plague Africa and Latin America. These locations are under pressure due to the need for increased agricultural lands and firewood. Africa has high deforestation rates due to firewood use and illegal logging due to political unrest. South America, Central America and the Caribbean have heightened deforestation due to agricultural usage, such as the loss of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil.
Eduardo Rojas-Briales from the FAO stated: “China has increased its forest by three million hectares (30,000 square kilometers) per year- no country has ever done anything like this before, it’s an enormous contribution. But we can also highlight the case of Vietnam, a small and densely populated country that’s implemented very smart and comprehensive forest reform- or India, which has not controlled its population as China has and where standards of living are even lower. Nevertheless India has achieved a modest growth of its forest area.”
Despite the gain in forests in these locations, environmentalists are concerned that old-growth forests are still being lost only to be replaced by newly planted forests. Old-growth forests are the key to maintaining biodiversity, a main priority for retaining not only species but ecosystems.