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WHY FORESTS MATTER

 

1 April, 2016

In countless ways forests support 1.6 billion human livelihoods. And every year 32 million acres of deforestation takes place due to humans. Forests matter as they supply 27 per cent of total primary energy in Africa, 13 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 5 per cent in Asia.

There is more.

Around 2.4 billion people cook with wood fuel. That is about 40 per cent population of under developed countries. They provide employment too. Around 13.2 million people in the world are employed formally in forest sector. Around 41 million livelihoods dependent on the informal sector in forestry and 840 million people or 12 per cent of the world’s population, collect wood fuel and charcoal for their own use. The UN's State of the World's Forest report 2014 says about 90 million people in Europe and North America use wood energy as their main source of domestic heating. The report focuses global attention on the plight of the world’s forests, which provide carbon sequestration, climate regulation and are host to an astounding variety of biodiversity.

FOREST COVER AND THE MOST ENDANGERED FORESTS:

Forests cover about 40 million sq km, less than one third of the Earth's land surface. And globally Russia has the largest forest area, covering 45 per cent of the country’s land. Brazil comes at second place having 4,776,980 sq km forest area which is around 56.10 per cent of the country’s area. Canada has 3,101,340 sq km forest land covering 31.06 per cent of the country. The United States has 3,030,890 sq km, which is 30.84 per cent of the country.  China has 1,821,000 sq km which is 18.21 per cent of the country’s land.

Australia having 1,470,832 sq km of forest cover which is 19 per cent of the country and Congo with 1,219,326 sq km has 52 per cent of forest cover. Argentina with 945,336 sq km has 34 per cent of the forest area. Indonesia with 884,950 sq km has 46.46 per cent of forest area and India 778,424 sq km has 23.68 per cent of forest cover.

While we often think that forests are being fast lost, there is some good news. Thanks to aggressive reforestation projects in Europe, North America and Asia—especially in China—the loss of trees isn’t as bad as it could be.

But there are places and areas in the world where forests of iconic importance and the wildlife they support are under threat. The Conservation International (CI), an American environmental think tank has come out with a list of the 10 most vulnerable forest hotspots in the world, forests that have lost more than 90% of their original habitat and which harbor at least 1,500 plant species that are found nowhere else in the world. The CI report focuses on hotspots—areas of the planet that host endemic species, knowing that when the habitat goes, so does the wildlife.

The threatened forests range from the U.S. to China, and if nothing is done to save them, they may not last much longer. The areas currently having less than 10 per cent of their original habitat are: Indo-Burma in southern Asia with 5 per cent remaining habitat and New Caledonia in Pacific Islands has also 5 per cent remaining habitat. Sundaland in Indonesia and Malaysia has 7 per cent remaining habitat, Philippines with 7 per cent, Atlantic Forest in South America with 8 per cent and mountains of Southwest China also with 8 per cent remaining habitat. California Floristic Province in U.S. and Mexico, Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa, Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands each having ten percent of remaining habitat. While as Eastern Afromontane in Africa has 11 per cent remaining habitat.

Close to one billion people who live in or around them rely on the natural resources these forest ecosystems provide. Overall Asia dominates the list of the top 10 nations that have reported the greatest forest area gain between 2010 and 2015. Despite the progress in increasing the area offered conservation protection status, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that the threat to biodiversity continues. 

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