Date
19 October 2017
Workers cut plane trees along a canal in France. A new UN report blames population growth and expansion of agriculture for the loss of 129 million hectares of forests since 1990. Photo: AFP
Workers cut plane trees along a canal in France. A new UN report blames population growth and expansion of agriculture for the loss of 129 million hectares of forests since 1990. Photo: AFP

World’s forests cut by area the size of South Africa since 1990

Global forests have been reduced by an area nearly the size of South Africa in the past 25 years.

A United Nations study blames growing populations and the expansion of agriculture for the phenomenon, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said the world’s forests have lost 129 million hectares since 1990 even as the pace of deforestation has been cut in half.

“The direction of change is positive, with many impressive examples of progress in all regions of the world,” FAO director general Jose Graziano da Silva wrote in the report.

“However the positive trend needs to be strengthened, especially in the countries that are lagging behind.”

Tropical forests in Africa and South America have borne the brunt of the decline.

Between 2010 and 2015, a period in which the pace of deforestation slowed substantially, Africa lost 2.8 million hectares of forests while South America lost two million hectares.

Meanwhile, the size of forests in temperate regions has increased, the agency said.

Global forests now encompass a total area of 3,999 million hectares, equivalent to 30.6 percent of the world’s surface area, down from 31.6 percent in 1990.

The vast majority of that land is still natural forest that has been left largely untouched.

In the same period, the pace of conservation has increased, with 150 million hectares of forest land set aside.

The size of planted forests has also increased by 110 million hectares, and now accounts for 7 percent of the world’s forests.

Almost a fifth of the world’s forests are found in Russia, where forests account for nearly half of the country’s total land.

Brazil has the second largest area of forestry, with 12 percent of the overall global total.

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