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First systematic report of global forest land use and change 1990-2005

7 December 2012

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has today published a report co-edited with IES scientists F. Achard, R. Beuchle, A. Brink, H. D. Eva, P. Mayaux, J. San-Miguel-Ayanz and H.-J. Stibig which presents the key findings of the global remote sensing survey of forests they have been carrying out since 2008.

The report, entitled Global forest land-use change 1990-2005, presents the key findings on forest land use and land-use change between 1990 and 2005 from the FAO-JRC’s 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment Remote Sensing Survey. It is the first report of its kind to present systematic estimates of global forest land use and change.

Forests cover 30% of the global land area

The Remote Sensing Survey used remote sensing data to obtain globally consistent estimates of forest area and changes in tree cover and forest land use between 1990 and 2005. It analysed 13,000 sample sites of 10x10km using Landsat images from 1990, 2000 and 2005. Its findings improve the knowledge on forest land use change dynamics over time, including deforestation, afforestation and natural expansion of forests.

Overall, the survey found that there was a net decrease in global forest area between 1990 and 2005, with the highest net loss in South America. While forest area increased over the assessment period in the boreal, temperate and subtropical climatic domains, it decreased by an average of 6.8 million hectares annually in the tropics. The survey estimated the total area of the world’s forests in 2005 at 3.8 billion hectares, or 30 percent of the global land area.

Global forest area is decreasing by 0.11% a year

This report is the result of many years of planning and three years of detailed work by staff at the FAO and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre including C. Bodart, S. Carboni, F. Donnay, D. Johansson, P. Kempeneers, O. Kissiyar, A. Lupi, R. Raši, R. Seliger, D. Simonetti, F. Sedano, L. Seebach, P. Strobl, P. Vogt and M. Vollmar, with inputs from technical experts from more than 100 countries. Many of these contributors now constitute a valuable global network of forest remote sensing and land-use expertise.


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