The world’s deforestation rate has accelerated to 6.4 million hectares a year, a new UN survey showed on Wednesday, but Asia showed net gains in forest land-use largely due to extensive planting in China. A new, satellite-based survey released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provides a more accurate picture of changes in the world’s forests, showing forest land use declined between 1990 and 2005.
Satellite technology was used for the first time to map forests finding there was a net loss of 4.9 million hectares a year between 1990 and 200 and 6.4 million between 2000 and 2005. Deforestation largely occurred in the tropics, likely attributable to the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land mostly in South America and Africa. Net loss totalled 72.9 million hectares, or 32 percent less than the previous figure of 107.4 million hectares, according to the survey.
The planet lost an average of 4.9 million hectares of forest per year, or nearly 10 hectares of forest per minute over the 15-year period.
Slight net increases in forest area were registered in subtropical, temperate and boreal zones over the full 15 year period. The survey showed forests now cover 30 percent of the world’s landmass.