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 novel approach looks beyond simply how much of a nation's area is covered by trees and considers the volume of timber, biomass, and captured carbon within the area. It produces an encouraging picture of Earth's forest situation and may change the way governments size up their woodland resources in future.
Devised by six distinguished international academic and non-governmental experts in forestry science and economics, the "Forest Identity" considers both area and the density of trees per hectare to determine the volume of a 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.
Applying the formula to UN-collected data released last year, the researchers find that, amid widespread concerns about deforestation, growing stock has in fact expanded over the past 15 years in 22 of the world's 50 countries with most forest. In countries where per capita Gross Domestic Product exceeds US $4,600 (roughly equal to the GDP of Chile), richer is greener. In about half of the most forested countries biomass and carbon also expanded. Earlier work showed that by the 1980s wooded areas in all major temperate and boreal forests were exanding.
Forest area and biomass are still being lost in such important countries as Brazil and Indonesia but an increasing number of nations show gains. The forests of Earth's two most populated nations no longer increase atmospheric carbon concentration: China's forests are expanding; India's have reached equilibrium changes due in large part to urban migration, agricultural yield increa
Contact: Professor Pekka Kauppi
University of Helsinki