Hardly sustainable forest use in the tropics
Even if the area of protected or at most selectively and sustainably used rainforests in the tropics has increased in recent years, these specifications often only exist on paper. On about 95 percent of the current tropical forest area, there is also mostly uncontrolled harvesting of wood or the areas are redesignated for agricultural purposes, since appropriate countermeasures have not yet been implemented.
A new study by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), which was founded in 1986 by tropical timber importing and exporting countries, comes to this rather sobering conclusion. The association investigated the use and protection of rainforests in 33 countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific region and South America, which contain around ninety percent of the world's remaining tropical forests.
When the ITTO first surveyed forest use in 1988, fewer than one million hectares of tropical forest had a sustainable use plan, compared to around 35 million hectares today. In reality, however, these requirements are rarely complied with, as the results from the regions show: In Africa, only 43 percent of the areas designated in this way are actually managed sustainably, in Asia 25 percent and in South America and the Caribbean 20 percent.
Of the more than 810 million hectares of forest areas inspected, more than half are also to be classified as protected, but corresponding concepts are only actually implemented in one fiftieth of the area. This opens the door to illegal logging and the conversion of primary forest into farmland or timber plantations. According to the ITTO, twelve million hectares of rainforest are cleared every year for agriculture or infrastructure measures alone, and other large areas are damaged by unauthorized logging.
According to the ITTO, Malaysia, Bolivia, Peru, Gabon and Ghana have made the greatest progress in protecting their forests, while countries such as the Philippines and Nigeria have now lost almost all of their primeval forests.