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United Nations optimistic about the state of global forests

A new assessment of our global forests has found encouraging news in the reduced rates of forest loss and carbon emissions from forests, as well as in the increased capacity for sustainable forest management.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations gathered data from 234 countries and territories to provide an up-to-date report on the world’s forests in its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 report .

One key finding is that the rate of global net forest loss has been cut by 50% since 1990, reflecting improvements to sustainable forest management, more land designated as permanent forest, increased assessment, monitoring, reporting, planning and stakeholder involvement and larger areas designated for conservation of biodiversity. The area under international forest management certification schemes, like Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) or Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), increased from 14 million hectares in 2000 to 438 million in 2014.

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In the U.S., forest area increased between 1990 and 2015, while in Canada forest area stayed approximately the same in the same time period.

Overall, the FAO report findings show global forested area declined by 0.31% between 1990-2015, which is not surprising given that the world’s population grew by 30% during the same time period and the demand for food and land increased significantly. The largest losses occurred in the tropics, particularly in South America and Africa, while in Asia and Europe there was a net forest gain. North and Central America showed little net change on average.

Forest carbon stocks and biomass are important indicators of a forest’s productive capacities, energy potential and capacity to sequester carbon. The total amount of carbon stored in above and below ground biomass (including the soil) in U.S. forests rose from 37,400 to 41,200 million metric tonnes between 1990 and 2015, while in Canada that amount went from 50,600 to 50,400 million metric tonnes between 1990 and 2010, with data from 2015 not yet available.

To learn more about how the world’s forests are changing, download a full copy of the report here.

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