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UN Report: World's Forests in Better Shape


The Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presented its biannual report on the State of the World's Forests. It said most countries in Europe and North America have reversed centuries of deforestation. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

FAO said Tuesday economic prosperity and careful forest management have had positive effects on the world's forests. Most countries in Europe and North America have reversed deforestation and are showing a net increase in forest area.

But experts at FAO, like Wulf Killman, said poor nations and those embroiled in conflicts still face serious challenges in managing their forests.

"Our main problem in forestry worldwide is the deforestation," he said. "We still lose about 13 million hectares annually to other land uses. But there is also a light side on the horizon. The net deforestation has over the last five years reduced from nine to seven million hectares. This is mainly due to reforestation and a-forestation."

Africa is one region that faces huge losses. The continent accounts for about 16 percent of the global forests. Between 1990 and 2005, Africa lost over nine percent of its trees.

On the positive side, Killman said forest area increased in Asia between 2000 and 2005.

"Asia has a net increment of forests," he said. "While we still have severe deforestation in South-East Asia, in particular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, we have a tremendous increase in China and in Vietnam and in a number of smaller countries."

Killman said that among the causes of deforestation are conversion of land for farming or livestock. Forests cover about 30 percent of the world's land area. FAO said that between 1995 and 2000, the world lost three percent of its forests.