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No convincing evidence for decline in tropical forests
Date:1/7/2008

f the satellite technology at our disposal.

Despite the large errors attached to present estimates, the lack of apparent decline in tropical moist forest area suggests that deforestation is being offset by natural reforestation at a higher rate than previously thought. Dr Grainger uses data from FAOs latest report, published in 2006, to show that in a few countries, such as Gambia and Vietnam, forest area has actually expanded since 1990, as the reforestation rate has exceeded the deforestation rate. He believes that a rise in natural reforestation is a logical precursor to this switch from net deforestation to net reforestation. It has already been the subject of studies in Brazil, Ecuador and India, but available data are too poor for us to be sure of its exact scale worldwide.

To give us more reliable data Dr Grainger says we need a World Forest Observatory to monitor changes in forests in the tropics and elsewhere. "What is happening to the tropical forests is so important, both to the peoples of tropical countries and to future trends in biodiversity and global climate, that we can no longer put off investing in an independent scientific monitoring programme that can combine satellite and ground data to give a reliable picture, he said.

A World Forest Observatory would bring together existing research teams in Europe, the USA and elsewhere and ensure they are properly funded to continue mapping tropical forest at least every five years. It could also undertake a massive project to analyse all available satellite and other data from the past and reconstruct the trend in tropical forest area since 1970. Only then will we really know what has happened to tropical forests over the last 40 years.


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Contact: Simon Jenkins
S.Jenkins@leeds.ac.uk
44-011-334-34031
University of Leeds
Source:Eurekalert

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