FAO’s millennium forest findings
A report from the United States Food and Agricultural department said that the tropics continue to lose 13.5 million hectares of natural forest each year, an area about the size of Greece.
The report was the FAO’s assessment of the state of the world’s forests which is done every 10 years.
It also stated that tropical forest plantations have been growing 1.8 million hectares per year and tropical secondary forest has naturally regenerated on an additional one million hectares per year. Outside the tropics, total forest area (including plantations and natural forest) has been rising by 2.7 million hectares per year.
The data suggests that tropical deforestation rates may have fallen in recent years, but does not prove it. One cannot compare most of its findings with those from previous reports because the definitions, data sources, and methodologies differ too much. The only really comparable deforestation statistics in the report come from two surveys of pan-tropical land use changes based on satellite images. These surveys show annual deforestation rates declined slightly over the last 10 years, but the difference is not statistically significant.
Brazil, Indonesia, Sudan, Zambia, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Myanmar (in that order) were the countries that lost the most forest during the 1990s. Apparently, Sudan and Zambia lost mostly open woodland.
Brazil’s total forest area diminished 22 million hectares over the decade, while Indonesia’s forest area declined by 13 million hectares.
In contrast, total forest area rose 18 million hectares in China, nine million hectares in Europe, and four million hectares in the United States. Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, India, Uruguay, and Vietnam also saw their forest area expand, while forest cover remained virtually unchanged in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Iran, North Korea, and Surinam.
The 2000 forest assessment also contains data on area under forest management plans, forest certification, forest fires, protected areas, and timber volumes.