Forests play bigger role in our lives than we can can imagine. They influence all aspects of our daily life, they produce air we breathe and provide a lot of benefits for humanity and life as a whole. Forests provide habitats to diverse animal species and livelihood for many different human settlements. They also serve as watershed protection, they prevent soil erosion, help in maintaining the water cycle, and check global warming by using carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. And of course, it offers opportunities for recreation.
We are aware that our life would be unimaginable without forests. Then automatically uprises a question: Why we destroy them? Answers to this question vary. Brief definition of the very concept of deforestation provides many possible answers. So what deforestation really is?
According to WWF „Deforestation is the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of the tree canopy cover. This includes conversion of natural forest to tree plantations, agriculture, pasture, water reservoirs and urban areas but excludes timber production areas managed to ensure the forest regenerates after logging.“
Deforestation is one of the greatest environmental challenges today. Many organizations, such as WWF, IPF (Intergovernmental Panel on Forests), UNFF (United Nations Forum on Forests) and the EU too, are dealing with the question of how we could prevent massive deforestation.
WWF currently in it´s latest analysis defined 11 places around the world where they are most likely high rate of deforestation between 2010 and 2030. These places will account for over 80 per cent of projected forest loss globally by 2030 – up to 170 million hectares. The 11 fronts are located in the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest and Gran Chaco, Borneo, the Cerrado, Choco-Darien, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Eastern Australia, the Greater Mekong, New Guinea and Sumatra. Together they contain some of the richest and most unique biodiversity on earth. These places you can see at the map below.
People automatically associate the word deforestation with Brazilian rainforests. But we see that even in Asia, Africa and Australia is deforestation a huge problem. Deforestation does not only mean the loss of forests, but brings with it a lot of other problems that are associated with it. To mention only a few, such as: reduction of biodiversity, increased soil erosion, release of greenhouse gas emission, loss of rare species and others. These threats are in the above mentioned 11 areas even more urgent. Now that we see what all is associated with deforestation, we must recognize that this issue deserves our attention and the attention of the international scene. There are different approaches to solving this issue on which today´s initiatives to stop the massive deforestation are based.
EU is strongly committed to the issue of the protection of forests. This is evidenced by the recent signing of Bratislava Forest Declaration, which highlights forestry as a stimulus on the way forward. This document attributed to the European Forest Institute a leading role in research into the conservation of forests. The declaration, among other highlights the need to develop the potential of forests for biomass production. This should be created by a corresponding policy framework with sufficient powers of the Member States. One of the most important points which the declaration deals with is the so-called FLEGT Action plan, introduced by Indonesia. FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade). This Action Plan covers the illegal trade in timber and its prevention. Indonesia is also one of the areas, according to WWF, in which is a huge risk of loss of forest by 2030. The aim of FLEGT is to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber. Illegal logging is a really big probem in Indonesia, it is the harvesting of timber in contravention of the laws and regulations of the country of harvest. Illegal logging is a global problem with significant negative economic, environmental and social impact.
Through FLEGT, the situation with illegal timber trade should be solved. But illegal logging is not the only cause of deforestation today. Other common reasons we mentioned at the beginning of the text as the construction of roads, housing, or even agricultural purposes. Tipical region where deforestation is mainly caused by inefficient agriculture are the Amazon forest in Brazilia, which are also among the 11 most endangered areas. If recent deforestation trends continue, more than a quarter of the Amazon will be deforested by 2030.
Much of the current deforestation could, in theory, be addressed through improvements in efficiency of farming and timber production and through better governance. We see that the reason we are destroying our forests, ie deforestation are many and differ depending on region. Therefore, it is very difficult to find a tool that would address the issue of deforestation in all regions. I would say that such a tool does not exist. The current forest protection initiatives are focused mostly on a specific area or a specific reason of deforestation and solve it. As one of the greatest challenges in the future we can identify the increasing number of inhabitants of the world. More people means more homes needed more food, water etc. The question remains, how we can continuously establish this without destroying our forests.
Taylor, 2011- Taylor, R. (ed.). 2011. WWF Living Forests Report. Chapter 1: Forests for a Living Planet. WWF, Gland, Switzerland