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Press Release 00/45  


Rome, 8 August - The destruction of the world's forests is continuing but there are strong indications that the rate of deforestation is slowing down, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement published today.

Preliminary analysis of more than 300 satellite images show that the rate of deforestation in the tropical countries was at least 10 percent less in the past ten years compared to the 80s, FAO said. Half of the images show a reduced rate of deforestation and 20 percent an increase. The survey is part of FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, which will be delivered by the end of the year. It will provide new estimates on the state and change of forests in all countries.

"These preliminary results do not mean that the battle against deforestation is over, and a reduction in deforestation must not be used as an excuse for unsustainable forest practices," said Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department at the XXI World Congress of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"It does show, however, that the long-term efforts of FAO and others to build awareness of and capacity for sustainable forest management are worthwhile and should be reinforced."

FAO's last global figures on forest cover indicated that in 1995 there were 3.5 billion hectares of forest, including natural forests and forest plantations. About 55 percent of the world's forests were located in developing countries. Only about 3 percent of the world's forests were plantations.

Between 1980 and 1990, forest cover change in natural forests in developing countries, where most deforestation is taking place, was estimated at a loss of 15.5 million hectares per year. According to the new FAO findings, tropical deforestation decreased by at least 10 percent annually in the 90s.

The major causes of deforestation in the tropics are the expansion of subsistence agriculture in Africa and Asia and large economic development programmes involving resettlement, agriculture and infrastructure in Latin America and Asia. In addition, overharvesting of industrial wood and fuelwood, overgrazing, fire, insect pests and diseases, storms and air pollution cause forest degradation, FAO said.


For more information please contact the following web page: or contact Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail:

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