Forest biodiversity at risk

Baku, October 6 (AZERTAC). The world`s forest biodiversity is threatened by a high global rate of deforestation and forest degradation as well as a decline in primary forest area. In many countries, however, there is a continued positive trend towards the conservation of forest biological diversity via dedicated conservation areas.

These are some of the key findings of the final report of FAO`s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FRA 2010), the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the world`s forests ever undertaken. The final report of FRA 2010 was published today at the start of the latest biennial meeting of the FAO` Committee on Forestry and World Forest Week, in Rome.

Globally, around 13 million hectares (ha) of forests were converted to other uses (including agriculture) or were lost through natural causes each year between 2000 and 2010. That is down from around 16 million ha per year during the 1990s, the report said.

More than one-third of all forests are classified as primary — showing no visible signs of human intervention. Primary forests, in particular tropical moist forests, include some of the world`s most species-rich and diverse ecosystems. Primary forests account for 36 percent (1.4 billion ha) of the world`s forest area but their area has decreased by more than 40 million ha — at a rate of 0.4 percent annually — over the last ten years.

This does not necessarily mean that these forests have disappeared; rather, in many cases they have been reclassified because selective logging or other human interventions were carried out during the reporting period, FAO said. The UN agency emphasized that forests where humans have intervened can still hold important biodiversity values, contribute significantly to environmental protection, and sustain livelihoods, provided they are well managed.

South America accounted for the largest proportion of the loss in primary forests, followed by Africa and Asia.

Other threats to forest biodiversity include unsustainable forest management, climate change, forest fires, insect pests and diseases, natural disasters and invasive species — all of which are causing severe damage in some countries.

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