TENDUA - Association for biodiversity conservation

Forests: only a moment to cut them down, but how many centuries to regenerate?

The world’s forests represent :

  • 30% of the total area of land (less than 4 billion hectares, according to FAO 2015). In comparison, 400 years ago, 66 % of land was covered with forests ;
  • 80 % of the original world forest cover has been cut down or damaged, essentially during the last 30 years. All in all, about 129 million hectares of forests have been lost since 1990, practically the land area of South Africa (according to the World Resources Institute).
    However :
  • According to the FAO, 60 million people are totally dependent on forests to live ;
  • Forests shelter 80% of terrestrial biodiversity ;
  • Forests absorb one third of global CO2 from fossil fuel emissions released into the atmosphere ;
  • To become a forest, firstly, pioneer species colonize the available space. Typically around 50 years later, these pioneers die and produce the necessary nutrients (humus) for the forest to grow. To become a mature forest, it would take another 700 years, if it remains undisturbed.
  • The level of oxygen and quality of the air, water, food, medicine … and the whole of humanity is dependant on forests.

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