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End of deforestation in view? Experts advance new way to size up global forest resources

s show several places worldwide have shifted from net deforestation to net reforestation the "forest transition."

Forest transitions," says geographer and historian Dr. Mather, who coined the term, "occurred between 1810 and 1930 from the lowlands of Denmark to the mountains of Switzerland, and from the highlands of Scotland to Russia."

In France, where forest cover over time is especially well-documented, forest area expanded by one-third after that nation's transition circa 1830 until 1960 and by a further 25% from 1960 to 2005.

In the USA, meanwhile, the forests of industrial and urbanized Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois have expanded by more than half since their respective transitions in the 1800s. In Connecticut, where the first USA transition occurred, forests covered about 30% of the state in 1860 and 60% in 2002.

While forest resources are stable or increasing in countries where per capita GDP exceeds US $4,600, the results in India and China (both of which fall short of this income level) show the importance and impact of government policies.

In China, reforestation and afforestation efforts have led to an increase in forest area from 96 million to 143 million hectares from the late 1970s to the early 2000s.

Other Asian countries that have made the transition include South Korea and Viet Nam. Taken as a whole, the Asian continent recently experienced forest transition, having lost 792,000 hectares of forest between 1990 and 2000 but gaining just over 1 million hectares between 2000 and 2005.

The authors foresee still more nations achieving forest transitions within three decades.

Forest transition at a global level

When forest transition occurs at a global level depends largely on Brazil and Indonesia, where huge areas of tropical forests are rapidly being cut and cleared. Encouragingly, in many other tropical areas forests are re-growing. Studi
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Contact: Professor Pekka Kauppi
pekka.kauppi@helsinki.fi
358-919-158-300
University of Helsinki
13-Nov-2006


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