World Progresses Towards Sustainable Forestry

Feb. 16, 2006 (Press Release) - New FAO data shows progress towards sustainable forest management at the global level, but also that biological diversity and forest ecosystems remain seriously threatened in several regions.

The main report of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005, launched yesterday at the sixth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF6) in New York, gauged progress towards sustainable forest management defined and measured in terms of the extent of forest resources and their contribution to the global carbon cycle; biological diversity; forest health and vitality; and productive, protective and socio-economic functions of forests.

"This is a first attempt to globally quantify progress toward sustainable forest management, which will stimulate the debate on the objectives of forest management worldwide," said Peter Holmgren, Chief of the Forest Resources Development Service.

Positive trends at the global, but mixed at the regional level

According to the report, there are more positive than negative trends at the global level, including a move in forest management towards multiple-use, including social and environmental benefits. Forests dedicated for conservation of biological diversity have increased by 6.4 million hectares per year to include 11 percent of all forests.

Forests for protection of soil and water and for recreation have also increased significantly. Planted forests are expanding and provide an increasing proportion of the world's wood supply.

However, negative trends are still alarming in some regions. Forests are rapidly being lost to agriculture in Africa, Central America, South America and in Southeast Asia, accounting for almost 90 percent of the world's deforestation of 13 million hectares per year.

Primary forests, crucial for maintaining biological diversity, are converted to agriculture or degraded through logging at a rate of 6 million hectares per year, mainly in South America and Southeast Asia.

Significant progress has been made in terms of political commitment, policies and legislation, with a majority of countries in the world taking steps to strengthen the policy and legal framework to improve the management and conservation of forests.

"There are positive and negative trends in all regions towards the goal of sustainable forest management which vary even more at the country level. To say more about the progress of forestry, it is necessary to upgrade monitoring and reporting processes in many countries." said Mette L°yche Wilkie, the coordinator of this assessment.

SOURCE: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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