Saturday, February 28, 2009

Environment: Planted forests increasingly critical to future wood supplies

Planted forests – which provided wood that is renewable, energy efficient and environmentally friendly – have become increasingly critical to future supplies, according to a new study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The agency noted that in 2005, planted forests made up about 7 per cent of the global forest area – or 270 million hectares – compared to a total 4 billion hectares of forest covering 30 per cent of the world’s land area.

But the importance of planted forests is expected to grow steadily with wood becoming an increasingly vital feedstock for industry, an increasingly competitive source of bio-energy due to the role of forests in mitigating the negative effects of climate change.

Planted forests help counter the negative affects of global warming by absorbing up to 1.5 gigatonnes of carbon every year, according to FAO’s Jim Carle, Chief of the Forest Resources Development Service and co-author of the study published in the December 2008 issue of Forest Products Journal.

Planted forests can also indirectly help to reduce losses of natural forests, added the study, which surveyed 61 countries, which contain 95 per cent of all planted forests. They play an increasingly important social and environmental role in conservation, protection of soil and water, rehabilitation of degraded lands, combat against desertification and urban and rural landscaping.

Their role is even more important given that deforestation is occurring at an “alarming” rate of 13 million hectares per year, FAO stated, adding that wood-based industries are increasingly encouraged to adapt to “new wood” from planted forests.

The agency leads the development and implementation of voluntary guidelines for responsible management of planted forests, which, it says, provide a more environmentally-friendly raw material for construction compared to alternatives such as steel, aluminium, concrete and plastic.

FAO also announced that forests in a changing world will be the theme of World Forest Week taking place within the framework of the agency’s Committee on Forestry which will be held in Rome from 16 to 20 March. FAO will also launch its report, State of the World’s Forests 2009, on 16 March.

Source: UN News Centre
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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