Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 7.6.2006

Global Forest Resources Assessment Conference in Kotka 12–16 June 2006

The top experts of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and representatives of more than 50 nations are meeting on 12 - 16 June in Kotka to prepare plans and procedural directions for the next Global Forest Assessment. Participants also include representatives of other international organizations, e.g. the Economic Commission for Europe, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the international Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO). The Conference hosted by FAO and Metla, the Finnish Forest Research Institute, will be attended by more than 80 specialists in forest resources. The Kotka V Conference venue is the Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences Forestry and Wood Technology Unit in Kotka.

Global forest resources declining, but rate of decline slower
The Kotka Conferences, organized every few years, have agreed definitions and established the bases for assessment of global forest resources. The aim of the Kotka V Conference is to approve the principles for the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment. Some of the issues addressed by the experts are which elements of the 2010 assessments should be improved, based on the 2005 Global Forest Resources Assessment, and the role of remote sensing in supplementing regional and global reports. Each country produces the inventory information independently. One of the greatest challenges is obtaining information that is based on comparable criteria, or is commensurable. The more diverse the information required from different countries, the more acute the need for harmonization.

Forest resources increasing in Europe and declining in South America and Africa
On the basis of the last Conference an assessment was produced on the situations of global forested areas, timber resources, forest carbon reserves, forest damage and forests in natural state in the years 1990-2005. The assessment showed that the area of forest has increased in Europe and parts of Asia. In North and Central America the situation has remained unchanged. In Asia, forest resources were augmented by the large reforestations in 2000-2005 in China. By contrast, forest area has declined in South America and Africa. In 2005, global forest area was a little under four billion hectares, which is a third of the globe’s land area. Conversion of forests into agricultural land has continued at the rapid rate of about 13 million hectares per annum. This trend has continued particularly in Brazil and Indonesia.

At the same time, tree planting and natural forest growth have slowed down forest losses. While in the period 1990-2000 nett losses amounted to 8.9 million hectares, as the result of planting in 2000-2005 nett losses had been reduced to 7.3 million hectares, in itself equivalent to a country the size of the Czech Republic or Panama.

Plantation area increased, but still only accounts for 3.8 % of forest area
The assessment classifies as plantations intensively managed planted stands of a single tree species. Afforestation has increased their area especially in Asia in the period 1990-2005. The area of plantations in the 2005 assessment was 140 million hectares, or 3.8 % of the whole world’s forested area. In 2000-2005, plantation area grew by 2.8 million hectares a year.

Sustainable use of forests and reforestation can increase the carbon sink effect of forests and their carbon reserves. It is estimated that the world’s forests bind 283 gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass. Forest biomass, dead organic matter and the soil bind 50 % more carbon than the atmosphere. Forest carbon reserves declined in Africa, Asia and South America, but increased in other areas. Carbon reserves bound in biomass were reduced globally by 1.1. gigatonnes per year, due to declining forest areas.

Four Conferences have previously been held in Kotka, in 1987, 1993, 1996 and 2002. The Kotka V Conference is funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The Conferences have also been supported by the City of Kotka and Finnish forest industries.

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