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

es in Central America show tree cover in El Salvador grew by about one-fifth from 1992 to 2001. Forests are also recovering fast in the Dominican Republic, in harsh contrast to deforested Haiti on the same Caribbean island.

Says Dr. Kauppi: "The main obstacles to forest transition are fast-growing poor populations who burn wood to cook, sell it for quick cash, and clear forest for crops. Harvesting biomass for fuel also forestalls the restoration of land to nature. Through paper recycling and a growing reliance on electronic communication, people help the transition by lessening demand for wood products."

Anticipating impacts of expanding global trade

The authors note that it's possible to sustain a large commercial harvest and expand "growing stock" at the same time.

Says economist Dr. Sedjo: "The USA gained growing stock during 1990 to 2005 while harvesting much round wood and some fuel. China did likewise. On the other hand, Indonesia and Brazil lost much growing stock without harvesting as much timber as either the USA or China."

The authors also predict the share of industrial wood production in forest plantations will grow from an estimated one-third today to half by 2025 and three-quarters by 2050.

"Plantations and the trade to make them effective reduce the impact of industrial pressures on the expanse of natural forests, which may be rich in soil carbon and biodiversity," adds Dr. Sedjo.

Implications for climate change

In addition to the measurement of forest area and growing stock, the researchers offer a formula to calculate atmospheric carbon being stored incrementally in the trees of a given area, knowledge critical for mitigating climate change.

Says Dr. Waggoner: "A rapid forest transition at a global scale would mean that atmospheric CO2 might not rise as fast as many fear."

As well, forest transitions are good news for wildlife like tig
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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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