"A World of Flowers"
Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign
Questions and Answers
How much of the world is forested?
Forests cover 30 per cent of the planet’s total land area. The total
forested area in 2005 was just under 4 billion hectares, at least one third
less than before the dawn of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago. (1 hectare
is equal to 10,000 square metres).
Where are forests found?
Forests are unevenly distributed. The ten most forest-rich countries, which
account for two-thirds of the total forested area, are the Russian Federation,
Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Australia, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Indonesia, Peru and India.
What is a primary forest?
On a global average, more than one-third of all forests are primary
forests, defined as forests where there are no clearly visible
indications of human activity and where ecological processes are not
significantly disturbed. Six million hectares of primary forest are lost
every year due to deforestation and modification through selective
logging and other human interventions.
Only 20 per cent of the world’s forests remain in large intact areas.
These forests consist of tropical rain forests, mangrove, coastal and
swamp forests. Monsoon and deciduous forests flourish in the drier and
more mountainous regions. Primary forests shelter diverse animal and
plant species, and culturally diverse indigenous people, with deep
connections to their habitat.
What are the protective functions of forests?
Trees quite literally form the foundations of many natural systems.
They help to conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent
desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes. Forests
are the most important repositories of terrestrial biological
biodiversity, housing up to 90 per cent of known terrestrial species.
Trees and shrubs play a vital role in the daily life of rural
communities. They provide sources of timber, fuel wood, food, fodder,
essential oils, gums, resins and latex, medicines and shade. Forest
animals have a vital role in forest ecology such as pollination, seed
dispersal and germination.
What are the links between forests and climate
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and are vital carbon sinks. It is
estimated that the world’s forests store 283 Gigatonnes of carbon in
their biomass alone, and that carbon stored in forest biomass, deadwood,
litter and soil together is roughly 50 per cent more than the carbon in
Carbon in forest biomass decreased in Africa, Asia and South America in
the period 1990–2005. For the world as a whole, carbon stocks in forest
biomass decreased annually by 1.1 Gigatonne of carbon (equivalent to 4
billion 25kg sacks of charcoal).
The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global
emissions each year than the transport sector. Curbing deforestation is
a highly cost-effective way to reduce emissions. Other solutions include
increased energy efficiency, reduced energy demand, better transport and
the use of green energy.
What is the deforestation rate on Earth?
World population currently stands at 6.5 billion people. It is
projected to grow to 9 billion by 2042. The expansion of agricultural
and industrial needs, population growth, poverty, landlessness and
consumer demand are the major driving forces behind deforestation. Most
deforestation is due to conversion of forests to agricultural land.
Global removals of wood for timber and fuel amounted to 3.1 billion
cubic metres in 2005.
Worldwide, deforestation continues at an alarming rate, about 13 million
hectares per year, an area the size of Greece or Nicaragua. Africa and
South America have the largest net loss of forests. In Africa it is
estimated that nearly half othe forest loss was due to removal of wood
fuel. Forests in Europe are expanding. Asia, which had a net loss in the
1990s, reported a net gain of forests in the past five years, primarily
due to large-scale forestation in China.
Forest planting and the natural expansion of forests help to reduce the
net loss of forests. The net change in forested area in the period
2000–2005 is estimated at 7.3 million hectares a year (an area about the
size of Sierra Leone or Panama), down from 8.9 million hectares a year
in the period 1990–2000.
Where should trees be planted as a priority?
Favourable growing conditions give nations in the southern hemisphere an
advantage over most industrial countries in the economics of wood
production. Plantations in the south can produce 10–20 cubic metres of wood
per hectare per year, considerably more than plantations in most northern
temperate regions and 10–20 times the typical productivity of natural
The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign encourages the
planting of trees in four key areas, namely: (i) degraded natural forests
and wilderness areas; (ii) farms and rural landscapes; (iii) sustainably
managed plantations; and (iv) urban environments. Trees have to be well
adapted to local conditions, and mixtures of species are preferred over
monocultures. Many trees have communal benefits, especially for the poor,
and ownership, access and use rights are as important as the number of
Who owns forests and trees?
Forest and tree ownership and tenure are changing. Eighty per
cent of the world’s forests are publicly owned, but private
ownership is on the rise, especially in North and Central America
and in Oceania. About 11 per cent of the world’s forests are
designated for the conservation of biological diversity. These areas
are mainly, but not exclusively, in protected areas.
Who cares for forests and trees?
Around 10 million people are employed in conventional forest management
and conservation. Formal employment in forestry declined by about 10 per
cent from 1990 to 2000. More than 1 billion forest adjacent people are
informal custodians of forests. They rely on forest products and
services for a significant part of their livelihoods. Approximately 500
million small-scale farmers in the tropics retain and manage trees on
their farms for livelihood goals.
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