The United Nations has called for urgent steps to safeguard the biodiversity of the forests in the wake of deforestation and degradation happening in a fast pace. The world agency stated this in its latest edition of “The State of the World’s Forests’, published on the International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May).
The protection of forests gains significance with coronavirus showing the world the importance of conserving and sustainably using nature.
The State of the World’s Forests says that the world has lost about 420 million hectares of forest since 1990. The forest land was lost because of conversion to other land uses. However, the UN said that the rate of deforestation decreased over the past three decades. It said that the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year between 2015 and 2020. It was 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. The UN said that the area of primary forest has decreased by over 80 million hectares worldwide since 1990. Forest fires, diseases, pests, invasive species drought and adverse weather conditions had adversely affected about 100 million hectares of forests, the UN report said.
The report pointed out that Agricultural expansion continued to be the main driver of deforestation, fragmentation and associated loss of forest biodiversity. It further said that commercial agriculture, basically cattle farming and soya bean and oil palm cultivation, accounted for 40 percent of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2010.
Though the net forest area loss has come down since 1990, the world is not on track to meet the Strategic Plan for Forests to increase forest area by three percent by 2030. The report also noted that new forests were being established in some areas whereas deforestation was also continuing in other regions.
When talking of forest species, the report noted that there was only a little progress on preventing the extinction of known threatened species and improving their conservation status. Of the 60 000 different tree species known, more than 20,000 are in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. As many as 8,000 of these are globally threatened and more than 1400 tree species are known to be critically endangered. The report said that eight percent of plants, five percent of animals and five percent of fungi in forests are at present listed as critically endangered.
With respect to people depending on forests, The State of the World’s Forests’ said that forest provided more than 86 million green jobs. It said that 880 million people worldwide spend part of their time collecting fuelwood or producing charcoal. Most of these were carried out by women.
The report said that the total forest area was now 4.06 billion hectares. Most of the forests are seen five countries (Brazil, China, Canada, Russia, and the US). Tropical domain has the largest forest cover (45 percent) followed by boreal, temperate and subtropical domains.