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Global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 per cent

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Deforestation slows, ‘but we need to do better’ on sustainable forest use – UN agriculture chief

While the world’s forests continue to shrink as populations increase and woodlands are converted to agriculture and other uses, over the past 25 years, the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 per cent, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report published today.

Some 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa ¬– have been lost since 1990, according to FAO’s most comprehensive forest review to date,The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015. It covers 234 countries and territories and was presented at this week’s World Forestry Congress, which kicked off today in Durban, South Africa.

The FAO study noted however, that an increasing amount of forest areas have come under protection while more countries are improving forest management. This is often done through legislation and includes the measuring and monitoring of forest resources and a greater involvement of local communities in planning and in developing policies.

“Forests play a fundamental role in combating rural poverty, ensuring food security and providing people with livelihoods. And they deliver vital environmental services such as clean air and water, the conservation of biodiversity and combating climate change,” saidFAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, launching the report in Durban.

He noted an “encouraging tendency towards a reduction in rates of deforestation and carbon emissions from forests,” as well as improved information that can inform good policy, noting that presently national forest inventories cover 81 per cent of global forest area, a substantial increase over the past 10 years.

“The direction of change is positive, but we need to do better,” the FAO Director-General cautioned. “We will not succeed in reducing the impact of climate change and promoting sustainable development if we do not preserve our forests and sustainably use the many resources they offer us,” he added.

FAO’s report stresses the critical importance of forests to people, the environment, and the global economy. The forest sector contributes about $600 billion annually to global gross domestic product (GDP) and provides employment to over 50 million people.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.