Africa losing forest faster than any other continent

Logging in DRC Copyright: Greenpeace/Kate Davison

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Africa lost over nine per cent of its trees between 1990 and 2005, according to a UN survey of the world’s forests.

This represents over half of global forest loss, despite the fact that the continent accounts for just 16 per cent of global forests.

The report was released this week (13 March) by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The highest losses occurred in countries with high forest cover: Angola, Cameroon, DRC, Nigeria, Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Although forests are obtaining greater political support and commitment in Africa, the report says "implementation and law enforcement remain weak in most countries".

In Latin America and the Caribbean, home to around a quarter of the world’s forest cover, 0.5 per cent of forest was lost every year between 2000 and 2005 ― up from a rate of 0.46 per cent in the 1990s. The conversion of forest to agriculture was the leading cause of deforestation.

Costa Rica, however, has turned around its forest decline in the 1990s to see a growth of almost one per cent of forest area expansion per year. But the extent to which this is related to reductions in agricultural land or innovative policies is not clear, warns the report.

The survey highlighted positive action in Latin American countries. This includes a large increase in forest area designated for biodiversity conservation, indicating that countries are taking steps to prevent loss of primary forests ― those undisturbed by human activities.

According to the report, the region is "among the world leaders in innovative approaches to international cooperation on forest issues". Methods used include forming networks to fight fires and improve the management of protected areas.

The Amazon Treaty Cooperation Organization ― whose member countries comprise Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela ― and the Central American Commission on Environment and Development are among those cited in the report.

Forested area increased in Asia between 2000 and 2005 ― largely due to China’s investment in tree plantations, which offset high rates of forest clearing in other regions.