The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests (IYF) to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. The British Prime Minister Cameron experienced, how forests can become a very political issue, which shows how emotional people’s attitude towards their environment can sometimes become. The International Year of Forests, however, was never mentioned in the debate that went on during the proposed forest sell-off by the British government, which highlights one of the problems that sometimes these proposed International-Years-of-Something face: A lack of attention. On a global scale, 31% of the land area is covered by forests. Some of these areas are highly under threat by unsustainable forestry and environmental pollution. The IYF therefore is meant to emphasise “the need for sustainable management of all types of forests, including fragile forest ecosystems” (UN resolution on the IYF).
It’s easy to be cynical about the annual declarations made by our world leaders, especially as there’s often a lack of corresponding action. Nevertheless, the International Year of Forests marks a critical moment on our planet. Our forest ecosystems have never been at more risk from the consequences of human actions, including climate change and industrial activities. But a few events in Canada, including the recent signing of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, give us some hope that 2011 will truly be the Year of Forests. (from a cnews contribution by David Suzuki)
How forest distribution, forest gains and forest losses look on a global scale has recently been mapped by worldmapper for an article in the Natural Inquirer, a school science educational journal. We worked together with the Forest Service of the USDA, who provided us with FAO data for the creation of the maps. The full World’s Forest Issue (Vol. 11 No. 1) of the Natural Inquirer journal is available as a free download in several languages and has a large amount of valuable teaching resources on forests.
Here are the tree maps from the article (the quotes after each map are taken from the Natural Inquirer article):
Map I: Amount of forest area in each country in 2005(click for larger view)
In 2005, the total amount of forests worldwide was just under 4 billion hectares. This is equal to about 30 percent of the land area on Earth. If every person on Earth were given an equal piece of forest, each person would have 0.62 of a hectare, which is about the size of a soccer field
Map II: Amount of forest growth in each country between 1990 and 2005(click for larger view)
Asian forests grew by one million hectares every year between 2000 and 2005. Asia’s increase in forests was the result of a planned effort to plant trees in that region. Most of the trees were planted in China.
Map III: Amount of forest loss in each country between 1990 and 2005(click for larger view)
Because some forests were expanding but more were being lost worldwide, about 7.3 million hectares of forests – an area about the size of Sierra Leone or Panama – were lost every year between 2000 and 2005.
Lastly, it should be mentioned that these maps are now award-winning maps :-)