Prosperity makes forests grow
Despite continued high deforestation rates in tropical countries such as Brazil, Indonesia or the Philippines, there could soon be a net increase in forest areas worldwide again. This is the result of a study of the fifty countries with the largest forests by forest scientists and economists led by Pekka Kauppi from the University of Helsinki.
The re-expansion and increase in volume of forests is closely related to the prosperity of the nations examined: Almost all countries that have a per capita gross domestic product of 4600 dollars or more have had a positive balance on both counts since 1990 on. The only exception, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Administration (FAO) in 2005, was Canada, where the indicators are said to have not moved in one direction or the other during this period. Significant increases in one or even both aspects can be seen in Spain, the United States, Japan, South Korea or France as well as in Germany, which in this country mainly affects the volume of wood, because the pure forest area has increased in the Federal Republic in recent years minimal at best.
The situation is very mixed among the less developed countries, because in addition to significant losses in Indonesia and Brazil, there are countries such as China and Vietnam, where reforestation has exceeded the deforestation rate for several years - India, on the other hand, has at least stopped the negative trend, so that clearing and planting are balanced here. The two East Asian countries have contributed to Asia as a whole gaining a net million hectares of forest cover since 2000. The researchers also report successes from the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, which they believe proves that forest protection does not necessarily depend solely on the financial strength of the respective states.
Overall, the authors estimate that an area the size of India could be newly forested by 2050, which would be about 300 million hectares. In addition to improved agricultural methods, which take the pressure off forests to gain arable land, the researchers cite the drive to cities and industrial jobs as the main reason for relief. In addition, better use of wood resources and recycling ensure better protection of the trees. However, economic uncertainties such as the increasing use of so-called biofuels or increasing paper consumption could soon reverse the positive trend. In addition, a distinction should be made between valuable natural forests with their high biodiversity and their protective functions for the soil or water cycle and new plantations. The latter could at least take the pressure off the remaining primeval forests.