THE world’s deforestation rate has accelerated to 6.4 million hectares a year, the UN said yesterday in its most comprehensive survey yet, but Asia showed net gains due to extensive planting in China.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) used satellite technology for the first time to map forests, finding there was a net loss of 4.1 million hectares a year between 1990 and 2000 and 6.4 million between 2000 and 2005.
The figures showed that the world has lost 10 hectares of forest per minute over the 15-year period, mainly because of the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land in South America and Africa.
The survey however found that the net global loss of forests over the whole period was 72.9 million hectares — 32 percentage points lower than previously thought — and that deforestation in Africa was lower than past estimates.
The survey, which used extensive satellite imagery from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and the US Geological Survey (Usgs), showed forests currently cover 30.3 percent of the world’s landmass.
Russia, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Peru and India are the most forested countries in descending order, with the first five accounting for over half of the total.
“We found that the highest deforestation rate is occurring in the tropical forests,” said Adam Gerrand, Fao forestry officer for remote sensing.
“There is still deforestation occurring in Asia but there are trees being planted and those numbers are larger so there is a net increase,” he said.
FAO worked on the report with more than 200 researchers from 102 countries.