Recently, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations came out with their Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 report. The 2020 report, examines about the status of forest resources from 1990 to 2020. The report covers more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries.
The very first assessment put forward by the FOA, was in 1948 with the objective of collecting information on the available timber supply to satisfy post war reconstruction demand. The FRA now covers all the thematic elements of sustainable forest management.
Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of food and agriculture organization, stated in the report, “Forests have immense potential to support sustainable development pathways, and the key to realizing this is reliable evidence. Accurate information on forest resources is also needed to monitor progress towards the nationally determined contributions of countries under the Paris Agreement on climate change; the Global Forest Goals and Targets of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017–2030; and the forthcoming post-2020 global biodiversity framework and United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration”.
According to the report, the world has a total forest area of 4.06 billion hectares (ha), which is 31% of the total land area. The tropical domain has the largest proportion of the world’s forests (45%), followed by the boreal, temperate and subtropical domains. The report also shows that more than half of the world’s forest (54%) is located in only 5 countries – the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.
Since 1990, the world has lost 178 million ha of forest area. However, the rate of net forest loss decreased substantially over the period of 1990–2020, due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries. “The rate of net forest loss declined from 7.8 million ha per year in the decade 1990–2000 to 5.2 million ha per year in 2000–2010 and 4.7 million ha per year in 2010–2020”, the report states.
Talking about the forest area in Asia, the report shows that Asia had the highest net gain in forest area in 2010–2020, the majority of which was in East Asia, with China reporting a net annual increase of 1.94 million ha.
An estimate on the deforestation in the period 1990-2020, shows that 420 million ha of forest were lost in the said period. “Deforestation occurred at a rate of 15.8 million ha per year in 1990–2000, 15.1 million ha per year in 2000–2010, 11.8 million ha in 2010–2015 and 10.2 million ha per year in 2015–2020”, mentions the report. This data suggests that the rate of deforestation slowed over the period.
The forest resource assessment broadly categories the forest into naturally regenerating forest, and planted forest. Briefing on the functions and values of both the categories, the report states, “Naturally regenerating forests (also called natural forests) generally contribute more to biodiversity conservation and provide a wider range of benefits and certain ecosystem services compared with planted forests. When sustainably managed, planted forests can help reduce harvesting pressure on natural forests, and some may also provide important ecosystem services.”
Naturally regenerating forests account for 93 percent (3.75 billion ha) of the total forest area. According to the data from 216 countries and territories representing 99 percent of the world’s forest area, the area of naturally regenerating forests decreased by 301 million ha between 1990 and 2020. “The overall rate of loss slowed in each ten-year period, from 11.9 million ha per year in 1990–2000, to 10.3 million ha in 2000–2010, to 7.84 million ha in the most recent decade”, the report adds.
According to the data received from 219 countries and territories in 2020, the total area of planted forests globally is estimated at 294 million ha, which is 7% of the world forest area. The data also highlights that Asia not only has the largest area of planted forest, at 135 million ha, but also has the largest share of total forest area held by planted forests (22%).
Data collected from 132 countries on Bamboo resources indicate that the total area of bamboo increased by almost 50% between 1990 and 2020, largely because of increases in China and India.
As mentioned in the report, world’s total forest growing stock (the total volume of living trees in a forest) is estimated at 557 billion. Although total growing stock declined slightly between 1990 and 2020, it increased per unit area, the report adds.
For the FRA report, countries were asked to report the main intended purpose for which a forest is managed and used. The 6 categories in which the management was classified were:
- Production – Globally, the area of forest so designated is estimated at 1.15 billion ha, which is equivalent to 31% of the forest area of reporting countries.
- Protection of soil and water- The area of forest so designated is estimated at 398 million ha, which is 12% of the total forest area of the reporting countries and territories
- Conservation of biodiversity – The area so designated is estimated at 424 million ha, which is 11% of the forest area of the reporting countries.
- Social services – The total area so designated is estimated at 186 million ha – 6% of the forest area of the reporting countries.
- Multiple use – The area so designated is estimated at 749 million ha, which is 22% of the total forest area of the reporting countries and territories
- Other – Worldwide, the area of forest so designated is estimated at 218 million ha (7% of the forest area of reporting countries)
The report also talked about the ownership of the global forest area, stating that of total forest area, 73% comes under public ownership, 22% under private ownership and 4% under unknown ownership.
The report concluded with some hard-hitting take way points:
- The global forest area continues to shrink
- Halting deforestation remains a challenge
- The deforestation hotspot is now in Africa.
- Deforestation has halved in Asia and South America.
- Forest management is moving towards sustainability.
- Production is still an important forest management objective.
- Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (to protect at least 17 percent of the terrestrial area by 2020) has been exceeded for forest ecosystems as a whole.
- Urgent action is needed to strengthen the positive trend of declining deforestation