As reported today in a BBC story entitled “Study Hopeful for the World’s Forests,” a study done by researchers at the University of Helsinki has concluded that the actual biomass of the world’s forests is higher than previously thought. Here are some of the key findings:
The study measured biomass instead of just surface area of forests, and using this measurement determined forest biomass is increasing in 22 of the 50 most forested nations.
They found that when a nation’s per capita income exceeds $4,600 per year, their forest stocks begin to increase – for a variety of reasons including more job opportunities and better enforcement of forest management.
According to the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization, there are 16.8 million square miles of forest per year, and they are being deforested at a rate of 13 million hectares per year, which translates into just over 50,000 square miles per year. This is only 3/10ths of one percent per year, which tends to confirm the data from Helsinki, which is rates of world deforestation are slowing down.
Nonetheless, considering the world’s forests used to occupy nearly 30 million square miles, and considering there is a one-to-one correlation between deforestation and increases in atmospheric CO2, we may wish to remain at least as concerned about deforestation (and reforestation) as we are about regulating carbon emissions.
Thanks almost exclusively to global warming concerns, the world’s biofuel industry is expanding rapidly. If biofuel begins to be produced on an industrial scale worldwide, expect pressures on the world’s forests to return with a vengence. Do we need forests more than we need biofuel?