Ongoing deforestation will destroy the forest homes of elephants, orang-utans and tigers.
Photo: © Michael Allen Smith (flickr)

Deforestation slows down - but the world's forests continue to shrink

The global deforestation rate has slowed down by more than 50 percent over the past 25 years. Nevertheless some 129 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990. The ongoing deforestation will destroy important habitats over the next years, including homes of orangutans, tigers, and elephants.

Over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed down by more than 50 percent, according to The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in September 2015. It noted that an increasing amount of forest areas have come under protection while more countries are improving forest management.

Nevertheless, the world's forests continue to shrink as populations increase and forest land is converted to agriculture and other uses.  Some 129 million hectares of forest - an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa - have been lost since 1990, according the report. While in 1990 forests made up 31.6 percent of the word's land areas, or some 4 128 million hectares, this has changed to 30.6 percent in 2015, or some 3 999 million hectares. Meanwhile, the net annual rate of forest loss has slowed from 0.18 percent in the early 1990s to 0.08 percent during the period 2010-2015.

Today, the bulk (93 percent) of the world's forest area is natural forest - a category that includes primary forest areas where human disturbances have been minimised, as well as secondary forest areas that have regenerated naturally.  Planted forest, another subcategory, currently accounts for 7 per cent of the world's overall forest area, having increased by over 110 million hectares since 1990.
Even though the deforestation rate has slowed down, too much forest is still being destroyed. The Wildlife Fund (WWF) published an alarming study in April 2015  entitled Deforestation fronts. According to this study, over the next 15 years, forest landscapes equalling an area more than twice the size of Texas could be lost to rampant deforestation.

The authors warn that if nothing is done, 11 of the world’s most ecologically important forest landscapes – including the forest homes of orangutans, tigers, and elephants – will account for over 80 percent of forest loss globally by 2030.
Up to 420 million acres of forest could be lost between 2010 and 2030 in these “deforestation fronts” if current trends continue, according to report, The hot spots are located in the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest and Gran Chaco, Borneo, the Cerrado, Choco-Darien, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Eastern Australia, Greater Mekong, New Guinea and Sumatra.

Download the study:The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015

Read more about deforestation fronts at WWF-Website

(FAO/WWF/ile)