Deforestation Essay, Research Paper
According to available estimates, forests cover more than one quarter of the world’s total area. About sixty percent of these forests are situated in tropical countries. However, these forests are disappearing at a very fast pace. Between 1980 and 1995, an area larger than Mexico had been deforested. This accelerated destruction of forests poses a serious threat to the environmental and economic well-being of the earth. Several studies have demonstrated that natural forests are the single most important repository of terrestrial biological diversity–of ecosystems, species, and genetic resources. Forests also act as major carbon sinks, absorbing massive quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Deforestation, according to these studies, is directly linked to adverse climate change, soil erosion, desertification, and water cycling. Until recently deforestation was deemed to be a local/national problem. However, increased awareness and scientific data have pointed out that the problem transcends national boundaries. Deforestation affects the entire earth’s environment and economic development.
This collection of essays analyzes the forces responsible for deforestation, the governmental policies that effect this destruction and the roles multilateral aid agencies, NGOs, play in the environmental debate. The collection critically examines the principles and criteria suggested by forest-experts for a sustained economic growth vis-a-vis forest stewardship in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. An invaluable resource for scholars, students, researchers, and policymakers involved with environmental and public policy issues.
A new study by the World Resources Institute of the UN Food and Agriculture’s (FAO) latest assessment of the world’s forests reports that deforestation may not be slowing down and may have even increased in the tropics.
According to FAO’s Forest Resources Assessment 2000, which will be released today during a high-level meeting in Rome, the global rate of deforestation averaged 9 million hectares per year during the 1990s. FAO claims a slowdown of 20 percent compared with the deforestation rate measured in the first half of the decade.
“FAO’s own data show that the loss of natural forests in the tropics continues to be rapid,” said Emily Matthews, author of the new WRI study, Understanding the Forest Resources Assessment 2000. “For FAO to say that global deforestation is slowing down is misleading given the differences in the regional and subregional conditions of the world’s forests.”
Deforestation rates have increased in tropical Africa, remained constant in Central America, and declined only slightly in tropical Asia and South America. The WRI report, which was endorsed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), points out that understanding the true rate of deforestation is made more confusing because FAO’s “net rate of change” measures the combined change in natural forest area and plantation area. During the 1990s, an average of 3 million hectares of new plantations were planted globally each year, and FAO counts these as offsetting natural forest loss.
If new plantations are excluded from consideration, it appears that natural forests in the tropics are being lost at the rate of nearly 16 million hectares a year. “The extent of tropical deforestation appears to be higher in all tropical regions except Latin America,” says Matthews. “More tropical forests were lost in the 1990s than the 1980s.”
Bruce Cabarle, Director of the Global Forest Program at WWF-US agrees. “Based on the experience of more than 300 active forest projects in more than 50 countries worldwide, WWF does not believe that deforestation is slowing down, but rather has continued at the same or even higher levels than in the 1980s, and that this is cause for alarm rather than complacency.”
FAO claims that Forest Resources Assessment 2000, the latest in a series of reports issued every ten years, is the most comprehensive in the organization’s 50-year history. It is the leading forest reference for ecologists, climate change scientists, policymakers, and environmental activists.
“No other organization provides such comprehensive information on global forests as FAO and we are concerned that the report’s findings are as accurate as possible,” said Dr. Anthony Janetos, WRI senior vice president and chief of programs. “Accurate monitoring is critical when forests are rapidly disappearing, flora and fauna are at risk of extinction and a wealth of environmental goods and services are being lost.”
FAO has admitted that its forest inventory information remains poor. More than half the developing country inventories used by FAO were either more than 10 years old or incomplete. Some developed country inventories also suffer from major methodological inconsistencies.
WRI’s report pays tribute to FAO’s committed effort to pull together the new global forest assessment in the face of great technical, institutional, and financial constraints but points out that there is an urgent need for greater efforts at national and international levels to improve the quality and timeliness of information available.
To solve the continuing problem of poor data, and inconsistent reporting methods, WRI’s report suggests that FAO should focus its efforts on collecting a core set of information, and collaborate with a wider range of organizations which can offer high quality information, particularly from satellite images.
“While it is critically important that information on forest extent and rate of change are more accurate, we also need to go further and develop reliable methods to monitor the quality and condition of forests,” says Cabarle.
WRI’s Matthews says that we need to know how forests are changing, and how these changes affect products and key ecosystem goods and services. “At the beginning of the 21st century, it is clear that official data collection efforts still haven’t provided an accurate picture of the extent of the world’s forest or how fast we are losing them.”
The World Resources Institute (http://www.wri.org/wri) is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to create practical ways to protect the Earth and improve people’s lives.
WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature (http://www.panda.org), is the world’s largest and most experienced conservation organization, with more than 4.7 million supporters and a global network active in over 96 countries