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Forest Basics | Boreal Forests | Rain Forests | Temperate Forests
Logging | Forest Economy  | Tree Facts | Forests

Forest Basics

Facts on Forests Around the World

More than a decade of discussions on how to protect the world's forests has resulted in substantial changes in the way forests are managed. Policies and programs to help promote sustainable forest management have been devised and have taken hold in many countries. Nevertheless, deforestation is continuing at a rapid rate, particularly in the tropical forests of Africa and South America.

Forest loss is caused by a complex set of social and economic pressures. Among the major factors contributing to deforestation and forest degradation are conversion of forests to farmland and poor forest management, including over-logging, forest fires, and increased harvesting of wood fuels and other forest products for household use.

Here are some facts:

* There are 747 million acres of forestland in the United States, about 71% as much as there was in 1630. Today, the United States has about the same amount of land covered by trees (or slightly less) as it did in 1907.

* America's forests are owned by private individuals (54%), public agencies (37%), and private industries (9%).

* Three well-placed mature trees around a house can cut air-conditioning costs by 10-50 percent, while trees and other landscaping can increase property value by 5-10 percent.

* Trees are good for air: One mature tree absorbs approximately 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. For every ton of wood a forest grows, it removes 1.47 tons of carbon dioxide and replaces it with 1.07 tons of oxygen.

* Americans use 27 percent of the wood commercially harvested worldwide, although only 5 percent of the world's population lives in the United States. Each U.S. citizen consumes on average approximately 75 cubic meters of solid wood every year -- about one ancient tree.

* An average, large healthy tree could have about 2,000 leaves. During 60 years of its life, such a tree could grow and shed approximately 3,600 pounds of leaves. Those leaves return about 70 percent of the nutrients to the soil.

* Forests helps water quality. Foresters carefully manage areas called watersheds (areas where we collect our drinking water) and riparian zones (land bordering rivers, streams, and lakes). These are places where maintaining water quality is the primary concern. Forests actually help to clean water and get it ready for us to drink. The trees, the soil, and bacteria are all part of this process. Forest cover protects and nurtures the soils that are the key to water retention, filtering, and quality.

* Forests in urban areas reduce stormwater runoffs, improve air quality, and reduce energy consumption.

* Forests cover about 30 per cent of the world's total land area. (A forest is considered an area with at least 10 per cent tree canopy cover.)

* The world's forest cover amounts to 3.9 billion hectares (1 hectare equals approximately 2.5 acres).

* 47 percent of the world's forests are in the tropics, 33 percent in the boreal zone (far north), 11 percent in the temperate zones, and 9 percent in sub-tropical areas.

* Half of the forests that originally covered 48 percent of the Earth's land surface are gone. Only one-fifth of the Earth's original forests remain pristine and undisturbed.

* In North America, more than half of the coastal temperate rainforests, once extending from California to Alaska, have been destroyed. Coastal temperate rainforests are one of the most endangered forest types on the planet.

* One-third of the planet's virgin temperate rainforest -- the largest remaining single expanse -- is in the Tongass National Forest on the southeastern coast of Alaska. The Tongass, which shelters the world's largest concentrations of grizzly bears and bald eagles, is seriously threatened by logging.

* Latin American forests are being lost at alarming rates. The rate of forest loss in Mexico is estimated at 600,000 to 2.5 million acres per year.

* Most of the mahogany exported from Peru is logged illegally. Illegal logging is a major threat to forests worldwide.

* Less than 8 percent of Canada's boreal forest is protected. The United States is the destination for nearly 80 percent of Canada's forest products, including lumber, toilet paper, catalogue paper and newsprint -- much of which comes from clearcutting in the boreal forest.

* Over 430,000 miles of roads -- more than 8 times the miles in the Interstate Highway System -- cut through U.S. national forests. These roads, built with taxpayer money, fragment habitat for grizzly bears, elk and other wildlife, disrupt migration routes and destroy the scenic beauty of our woodlands. Forest roads cause serious soil erosion and stream sedimentation, ruining water quality and fish habitat. They have also been linked to an increase in the frequency and severity of mudslides.

* In recent years, an average of 95 percent of new forest roads were used for logging, with only 5 percent devoted to recreation or general use. In 2002,The U.S. Forest Service spent $62.3 million on forest road construction.

* In the Pacific Northwest, degradation of soil and water resources due to industrial logging threatens some of the last remaining wild fisheries in the continental United States.

* Global wood consumption is projected to increase 50 percent by the year 2050.

* About one-sixth of the wood delivered to a construction site is never used. Instead, it's hauled to the landfill as wood waste scraps.

* Roughly 20 percent of the total wood used in building a new home can be saved by framing more efficiently. This and other building techniques, if adopted by residential builders nationwide, would eliminate the demand to cut hundreds of thousands of acres of forest every year. In addition, these material-saving techniques often save builders money and time.

* Sustainable forestry practices can ease the pressure on our forests. The Collins Almanor forest in California contained 1.5 billion board feet of standing timber when harvesting began in 1941. Sixty years and 2 billion board feet later, this sustainably managed forest still holds 1.5 billion board feet of standing timber, and supports great blue heron rookeries, black bears, rubber boas and bald eagles.

* Two thirds of the world's forests are located in ten countries: the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Australia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Angola and Peru.

* Most deforestation occurred in natural tropical forests, which lost 14.2 million hectares a year over the last decade. Africa and South America have suffered the most deforestation.

* Africa, which lost 5.3 million hectares of forest per year in the 1990s, was the region with the highest deforestation in the world.

* Forests are a major factor in the climate change issue. Forest ecosystems contain more than half of all terrestrial carbon, and account for about 80 per cent of the exchange of carbon between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere. Deforestation in the 1980s may have accounted for a quarter of all human-induced carbon emissions, the second greatest emitter after fossil fuels.

* According to the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Biodiversity Outlook, about 60 percent, and possibly closer to 90 percent, of all species are found in tropical forests.

* Wood is the primary source of fuel in the majority of developing countries. Up to 81 per cent of the wood harvested in the developing world is used for fuelwood. In developed countries, fuelwood accounts for less than 10 percent of total fuel consumption.


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The Registry of Nature Habitats
PO Box 321
Meridale, NY 13806
Copyright 1999 - All Rights Reserved

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