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Press Release 01/01

NET LOSS OF 9 MILLION HECTARES OF FORESTS PER YEAR DESPITE INCREASES IN PLANTATIONS


Rome, 22 January.- The global rate of net forest loss has slowed to 9 million hectares per year, according to the latest global forest assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The assessment shows a rate 20 percent lower than the global figure previously reported in 1995. Forests are disappearing most rapidly in Africa and Latin America, whereas in Asia, the reduction of natural forests is largely compensated by new plantation forests. In Europe and North America the forest area is increasing, according to the FAO survey. Overall, the world contains around 6000 square meters of forest for each person, which is reducing by 12 square meters every year.

These figures have been published on the FAO Forestry Web site (www.fao.org/forestry) and will be officially presented in FAO's State of the World's Forests 2001 due to be released on the occasion of the forthcoming session of FAO Committee on Forestry, in Rome on 12 March . The Committee on Forestry (COFO) is FAO's leading forum for international discussions on forest policy and technical issues, and it will be attended by more than 100 FAO member countries .

The current survey is the latest in global forest assessments by FAO spanning a 50-year period and the first of its kind to be implemented using a uniform global definition of forest. The findings reveal a diverse picture, where some countries still have very high levels of deforestation (mainly conversion of forests to other land uses) while others show significant increases in forest cover through plantations or natural re-growth .

"These differences", according to FAO Director General Dr. Jacques Diouf, "cannot be explained by population pressure on forests alone. Rather they are apparently the results of economic developments at large, and national forest or land use policies. Therefore, forestry surveys should address, on a sustainable basis, further development of the forestry sector which constitutes a backbone of world food security."

Commenting on the new global assessment on forests, Dr. Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director General (Forestry Department), said: "Although remote sensing has increased the information about forests in general, field surveys remain the main source of knowledge about forest dynamics and forest change. FAO is now addressing the need for improved quality and relevance in forestry information in new proposals for future forest assessments to be discussed at COFO in March".

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For further details please contact, Mr. Steve Dembner , Publications and Information Coordinator (FAO - Forestry Department) Tel. 00390657054778 - Fax 00390657053024 - Email: Forestry -information@fao.org;

Or, Mr. Salah Albazzaz, Media Relations Officer ( FAO - Information Division), Tel. 00390657056328; Fax 00390657054974 ; Email: salah.albazzaz@fao.org


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