Dynamics of global forest area: Results from the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015

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Abstract

The area of land covered by forest and trees is an important indicator of environmental condition. This study presents and analyses results from the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 (FRA 2015) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FRA 2015 was based on responses to surveys by individual countries using a common reporting framework, agreed definitions and reporting standards. Results indicated that total forest area declined by 3%, from 4128Mha in 1990 to 3999Mha in 2015. The annual rate of net forest loss halved from 7.3Mhay -1 in the 1990s to 3.3Mhay -1 between 2010 and 2015. Natural forest area declined from 3961Mha to 3721Mha between 1990 and 2015, while planted forest (including rubber plantations) increased from 168Mha to 278Mha. From 2010 to 2015, tropical forest area declined at a rate of 5.5Mhay -1 - only 58% of the rate in the 1990s - while temperate forest area expanded at a rate of 2.2Mhay -1 . Boreal and sub-tropical forest areas showed little net change. Forest area expanded in Europe, North America, the Caribbean, East Asia, and Western-Central Asia, but declined in Central America, South America, South and Southeast Asia and all three regions in Africa. Analysis indicates that, between 1990 and 2015, 13 tropical countries may have either passed through their forest transitions from net forest loss to net forest expansion, or continued along the path of forest expansion that follows these transitions. Comparing FRA 2015 statistics with the findings of global and pan-tropical remote-sensing forest area surveys was challenging, due to differences in assessment periods, the definitions of forest and remote sensing methods. More investment in national and global forest monitoring is needed to provide better support for international initiatives to increase sustainable forest management and reduce forest loss, particularly in tropical countries.

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Keenan, R. J., Reams, G. A., Achard, F., de Freitas, J. V., Grainger, A., & Lindquist, E. (2015, September 8). Dynamics of global forest area: Results from the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015. Forest Ecology and Management. Elsevier B.V. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2015.06.014

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