Deforestation and Reforestation

Experts Advance New Way to Size Up Global Forest Resources

According to research out of the University of Helsinki, “An increasing number of countries and regions are transitioning from deforestation to afforestation, raising hopes for a turning point for the world as a whole, according to researchers advancing a more sophisticated approach to measuring forest cover.”

The “Forest Identity” approach considers more than simply how much of a nation’s area is covered by trees; it also includes the volume of timber, biomass, and captured carbon within the area. The result produces an encouraging picture of Earth’s forest situation and should change the way we assess forests.

“Forest Identity” considers both area and the density of trees per hectare to determine the country’s “growing stock”: trees large enough to be considered timber. The formula also quantifies the biomass and atmospheric carbon stored in world forests and will help track those forest characteristics over time.

Using the Forest Identity method, this map shows the top fifty forested countries.

  • Green indicates that the forests are increasing (United States, Russia, China, Vietnam, et. al.).
  • Brown indicates that the forests have seen no increase or decrease (Canada, South Africa).
  • Tan indicates that the forest data was not available (e.g. Australia).
  • Red indicates that the forests are losing growing stock (Brazil, Indonesia, et. al.).
Chart of Forest Changes, 1990 to 2005Click on to enlarge

The illustration to the right shows most of the mapped countries graphically. Countries to the “northeast” of the diagonal line are increasing their forest stock. Countries “southwest” (below) the diagonal line are decreasing their forests’ stocks.

Forest Identity’s approach was created by six experts from diverse academic disciplines (forestry, environmental technology, ecology, geography, resource economics, and agronomy) in China, Finland, Scotland, and the USA . The creators, following independent lines of thinking, came to agree that forest transition on a major scale is underway. The paper was peer-reviewed by the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For further reading:

NY Times, New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests

Post to Twitter