Some environmentalists are calling on governments around the world to work together to better protect the world's forests. Deforestation is on the rise as demand for forest products increases from China and other countries with rapidly expanding economies.
Deforestation remains a serious issue globally. In many countries, more trees are cut down than can be replaced. Scott Paul, forest campaign coordinator at Greenpeace, said, “Currently the archipelago of Southeast Asia is experiencing the highest deforestation rates of any country in the world. Brazil experienced the second highest rate of deforestation in its history just in 2004, so the problem is accelerating in many parts of the world."
Deforestation is a complex problem with no single cause or solution. Our planet essentially supports three forest zones, or belts, spread across the globe. Paul said, “The boreal belt…is the crown of the planet. You have got the temperate belt, and then you have the tropical belt."
Agricultural expansion is the most common explanation for deforestation given by those studying the issue. Vast hectares of the Amazon are being cleared for soya. Other leading causes of deforestation are logging, urban growth, and large developmental projects. Another driving force is poverty.
Jennifer Turner manages the China Environmental forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. She said, "Besides the forests that are being destroyed, biodiversity issues come into play, but also the livelihoods of local people. In Russia, the Far East, a lot of indigenous people are dependent on the forests."
Turner added, "The bigger problem with the deforestation is there is so much illegal logging in the world and there is a lack of forest certification."
However, some timber companies are addressing this issue. The Forest Stewardship Council guarantees its wood products have been harvested in a sustainable way by timber companies following certain guidelines.
Turner said, "China does play a key role in the larger deforestation question in the world, again as the major consumer and the major producer of wood products in the world."
Yingling Liu is a researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an independent environmental research organization.
"China is one link in the whole chain,” Liu said. “Many of the timber products processed in China are exported again to Europe, to the U.S., to Japan, so we can not blame this on one country."
China's rapidly expanding economy is adding to ever-increasing demands on forest resources worldwide. The solution, according to environmentalists, is to increase cooperation between governments to protect the world's remaining forests.