B Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Timchenko, rapporteur
forests as the basis of life
1. Plants are the basis of life.
It was plants which first made the transition from sea to land,
and they are the first link in the food chains on Earth – using
energy derived from sunlight they produce organic substances subsequently
ingested by animals and humans. Plants perform the most active role
in the oxygen cycle. Their huge biological mass gives the processes
of photosynthesis and respiration a tremendous impact on the gaseous
composition of the planet’s atmosphere.
2. Forests are the main type of plant life in many land biomes,
usually comprising one or more types of trees with a dense leaf
canopy. Forests are also places where herbs, shrubs, mosses and
lichens grow. The forest ecosystem is capable of sustaining itself,
and this is its key attribute. It means that a forest may live for much
longer than any of its trees. While trees may take root, develop,
age and die, old trees are succeeded by younger ones, and the forest
itself remains in its entirety.
3. Forests may be needleleaf or broadleaf (or mixed), deciduous
or evergreen. They provide the living environment for many birds
and animals and are a source of timber, berries, mushrooms and raw
materials. Biomass accumulated within forests constitutes 90% of
all terrestrial biomass (representing between 1 650x109 and
1 911x109 tonnes of dry weight, with
coniferous forests accounting for 14% to 15% and rain forests for
55% to 60%). The world’s forests are therefore important carbon
4. With their important role in climate control and soil and
water protection, forests represent an important factor of biospheric
sustainability, and continuing efforts need to be made with a view
to their preservation and reproduction.
5. Forests have always been of great importance for humans. They
play a significant role in some modern economies, while also having
high environmental, social, cultural and recreational value in most.
It must also be noted and taken into account that large ancient
forests are homes to many indigenous human populations.
2 Role of forests in relation to global
6. The Earth’s forests perform
a number of essential environmental functions, for instance removing
and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere of our planet, preventing
soil erosion and controlling the water balance.
7. As we all know, forests have often been called the “lungs
of our planet”. While not a very accurate one, this is a metaphor
that does reflect the importance of forests in the global carbon
and oxygen cycles. Forest trees, like all green plants, perform
photosynthesis and produce organic substances, using atmospheric
carbon dioxide as a source of carbon and releasing oxygen back into
the atmosphere. One molecule of carbon dioxide taken in by a plant
(that is, one atom of carbon bonded to two of oxygen) corresponds
to one molecule of oxygen released back into the atmosphere. The
carbon bonded during photosynthesis (included in the organic substances
produced) is partially used by the plant for its own structure and
partially returned to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide during plant
respiration or decay. Thus the carbon used by the plant during its life
cycle for its own structure is equivalent to the amount of oxygen
that it has released.
8. Forests are so important as carbon stores because of their
huge biomass and the long-term storage of organically bonded carbon
in tree trunks. In boreal forests, for example, where decay is a
slow process, the trunk of a dead tree will take between 100 and
500 years to decay, that is, the carbon accumulated by a tree during
its life will be bonded for several centuries after the tree has
died. But in ancient forests where the biomass has stabilised and
decomposition rates are approximately the same as in primary production,
the annual amount of carbon bonded by photosynthesis is roughly
the same as the amount released during decomposition. In such conditions
the forests are not acting as carbon sinks any more, but remain
very important carbon stores for as long as their integrity is maintained.
9. It must be noted that in some cases the situation is more
complicated, and old forests retain their function as carbon sinks,
due to the accumulation of carbon in soil, for example. Furthermore,
some wet forest ecosystems such as wooded bogs show significant
permanent rates of carbon accumulation, even as ancient woodlands.
The very humid soils and resulting oxygen deficit prevent dead organic
substances from decaying. Such boggy soil accumulates dead organic
substances (peat) layer by layer, with the thickness increasing
as the years pass. The peat layers may be several meters thick –
between 3 and 5, and sometimes even up to 10 meters. Boggy forests,
like open, treeless peat bogs and many other wetland types, accumulate
peat over a period of thousands of years, bonding carbon dioxide
and releasing oxygen into the air. The accumulated carbon remains
bonded unless the bog is drained and oxygen is able to penetrate
the inner parts of the peat bed. At that point, the process goes
into reverse – the decaying peat releases large amounts of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere; such releases may be particularly massive
in the event of peat fires, which are not uncommon in dry peatlands.
10. It is thus clear that any meaningful climate policy must take
into account the role of forests as carbon sinks and stores in order
to tackle a worldwide environmental challenge such as global warming,
given that it is excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide that causes
the greenhouse effect.
11. The role of forests in water protection is as well known as
their “lungs of our planet” role. Their importance for water protection
is not only recognised theoretically, but also put to practical
use: many countries have enacted forest legislation in order to
retain and preserve the forests which form a protective screen along
the banks and near the sources of rivers, streams and lakes. There
are relevant provisions of Russian legislation which require forest
screens to be created along all rivers, lakes and reservoirs of
any significance; the rivers which contain breeding sites of fish
used for commercial purposes have the widest forest screens. The
best-known aspect of the protective role of forests is their ability
to prevent the erosion of river banks, reinforce slopes and prevent
the development of gullies. If the slopes of a river valley and
the banks of associated streams are wooded, bank erosion takes place
on a significantly smaller scale – tree and other forest plant roots
bind the soil, preventing the formation of deep drainage lines;
thick forest litter, moss and lichen also protect the surface layer
of soil; dead tree trunks and branches lying on the ground and slight undulations
in the forest floor make the water take a more winding course and
flow less rapidly.
12. Forests may have a considerable impact on amounts of rain
and snowfall. It has been demonstrated that air is more turbulent
in forests, causing greater amounts of precipitation. Wooded river
basins may have considerably more rain and snow than treeless areas.
Moreover, forests can, in comparison to herbaceous vegetation, evaporate
significantly larger amounts of water (trees can recover water from
much deeper soils than can fleshy plants); in other words forests
return some of that water into the air, making the air more humid in
forests than in treeless areas when the wind is blowing.
13. Large-scale deforestation is among the main causes of increasingly
frequent disastrous floods, particularly in mountain areas, where
greater amounts of snow may melt in areas lacking vegetation.
14. Forests are able to reduce wind speed, prevent soil erosion
and accumulate moisture: these features are already being put to
good use today in order to address the very serious environmental
issue of desertification. One example of this can be found in the
People’s Republic of China, which has, since 1970, been carrying
out a governmental programme known as “The Green Wall of China”,
which entails the planting of trees to cover an area of 350 000
sq. km in order to prevent the Gobi desert from expanding. An objective assessment
of this large-scale reforestation effort would provide an important
source of information for those making similar efforts elsewhere.
15. Last but not least, the role of forests in maintaining global
biodiversity must be emphasised. Tropical, temperate and boreal
forests offer a diverse range of habitats for plants, animals and
micro-organisms. Consequently forests are thought to contain the
majority of the world’s terrestrial species. Forest biodiversity encompasses
not just trees, but also the multitude of plants, animals and micro-organisms
that inhabit forested areas. We can view that biodiversity at different
levels, including the ecosystem, landscapes, species and populations.
Complex interaction can occur within and amongst these levels. In
biologically diverse forests, organisms are thus able to adapt to
continually changing environmental conditions, and ecosystem functions can
situation of forests worldwide
16. The estimated area covered
by the world’s forests is about 38 million sq. km. A slightly greater
proportion of them is in developing countries. It is estimated that
the world has lost about 5.5 million sq. km of forests, the total
loss of 6.5 million sq. km of forest areas (mostly in developing
countries) being set against an increase of 0.9 million sq. km.
Generally speaking, the reduction of forests is most visible in
developing countries, although the amount of that reduction seems
to have been lower than was predicted for the 1980s and 1990s, and
that downward trend continues.
17. Studies have shown that the main factors affecting forests
are agricultural development, in Africa and Asia, and major economic
development programmes associated with migration and with infrastructure
and agricultural development, in Latin America and Asia. In Asia,
the establishment of oil palm plantations has become a very important
driver of forest loss. Although timber production is not the main
cause of forest shrinkage, it is another important factor, especially
because logging operations in many areas were accompanied by road
building to make remote areas easily accessible for agricultural
18. The map below, produced by the WRI (World Resources Institute),
demonstrates the changes that have occurred in forest cover: it
shows the area covered by the Earth’s forests today as compared
to 8 000 years ago.
Figure 1: The Earth’s forests
8 000 years ago as compared to today. Forest cover that existed
8 000 years ago is shown in dark grey, and the forests still remaining
are shown in light grey
Table 1: Extent and causes of
forest reduction on the different continents according to the FAO
Rate of reduction,
19. The situation of the world’s
forests today cannot be described as good. Forests are intensively
logged and rarely regenerated. Annual logging removes over 4.5 billion
cubic metres. There is particular public concern worldwide about
tropical and subtropical forests, where logging accounts for over
half of global annual prescribed yield. Some 160 million hectares
of rainforests have already been destroyed, and only 10% of the 11
million hectares logged each year is regenerated through the planting
of homogenous forests. The rainforests which cover about 7% of the
surface in areas near the equator, in particular, are often termed
the “lungs of our planet”. They play an exceptionally important
role in adding oxygen to the air and absorbing carbon dioxide. Rainforests
provide a home for almost 4 million species. They are the habitat
of 80% of insects and two thirds of known plant species. These forests
produce one quarter of our oxygen reserves. Some 33% of the world’s
rainforest areas are in Brazil, while Zaire and Indonesia each have
10%. According to the FAO, these forests are being destroyed at
a rate of 100 000 sq. km per year.
forests of Europe
20. About 8 000 years ago, 70%
of European territory was covered by forests. They were almost everywhere,
other than in high-mountain, exposed or poorly drained areas. As
the population has grown and new equipment been developed, forest
logging has increased rapidly. Some areas have been cleared for agricultural
purposes, and the wood has been used for building or as fuel.
21. The forested areas of Europe (not including Russia) have now
shrunk to 68% of their original size, while only 1% of old forest
stands remain. Extensive forest areas remain only in northern Europe,
sub-Alpine regions and in the European part of Russia. A positive
fact, undoubtedly, is that in recent years the forest area in Europe has
grown by 4%, which is a greater increase than in any other part
of the world.
22. Russian forests play a key role in preserving global biodiversity
and biospheric functions, because it is there that the widest range
of natural ecosystems as well as considerable numbers of the different
species of the world are found.
23. Russia occupies a unique position in terms of the variety
of latitudes and zones which shape its biodiversity, because its
territory features clearly interlinked zonal natural ecosystems.
More than 180 native woody plants and shrubs, which form forests,
are known in Russia.
24. Within the European Union, forests exist in a great variety
of climatic, geographical and ecological conditions: in a temperate
or boreal climate, in Mediterranean or alpine zones or on plains.
Socio-economic conditions may vary considerably from one country
or region to another.
25. Europe’s forested areas are expanding faster than woodlands
are being lost to infrastructure and urban uses. This trend, which
began in the 1950s (and even earlier in certain countries), is attributable
to a variety of factors. Several countries have extended their forest
cover through planting programmes on uncultivated farmland. This
positive development distinguishes the European Union from the numerous
regions elsewhere in the world where deforestation continues to
reduce forest resources. It should be noted, however, that unless the
planting of forests is properly planned, it might harm agricultural
land of high natural value and destroy the habitats offered to flora
and fauna by open landscapes.
26. The importance of European forests for nature conservation
has been recognised in the context of the Bern Convention. Several
forest habitat types are listed in Annex I to Resolution No. 4 of
the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention and Annex I to the
EU Council’s Habitats Directive, and have to be protected in the
framework of the Emerald and Natura 2000 networks respectively.
issues relating to the situation of forests
Forest management is one of
the types of natural resource management which is sustainable only
if it abides by a few simple principles:
- use of forests not exceeding their capacity for regeneration;
- preservation and strengthening of forests’ environmental
functions, role in the protection of water and other resources,
and other functions;
- management and conservation of forest biodiversity;
- allowing the use of forests in accordance with their relevance,
functions, location, and environmental and economic conditions;
- creating conditions for forest regeneration;
- compliance with science-based rules of use.
Forest resources can be used for many purposes, such as:
- harvesting of wood;
- harvesting of gum;
- tree sap collecting;
- drug plants and raw materials for industry;
- forest grazing;
- location for bee hives and apiaries;
- gathering of wild fruits, berries, nuts, mushrooms and
other forest food resources;
- gathering of moss, forest litter, fallen leaves and cane.
29. Additionally, some forest areas may be used for field sports,
research, cultural and health purposes, tourism and sport.
30. Many governmental and international organisations have now
taken control of forest issues and, consequently, have an impact
on the forest industry and on pricing. One of these is the Intergovernmental Panel
on Forests (IPF) set up in April 1995 following the 1992 United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio
de Janeiro. The IPF works with international organisations, governments,
non-governmental organisations and the private sector. Its work
has a great impact on the forest situation and the forest industry.
31. The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) report published by
the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provides
regular information. The FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment
(FRA) is used as a basis for decisions by many other organisations.
And the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) engages in some activities
relating to the environmental role of forests and their protection.
32. Forest products, production
volume, market conditions, prices and other relevant parameters
are directly linked with the situation of the world’s forests at
any given time, the environmental situation and global and national
forest management policies. Economic, political, demographic and
social trends determine forest management practices and have an
effect on the formulation of national policies and the establishment
of relevant institutions.
33. The quantity and extent of forests are mainly affected by
demographic changes (population growth and urbanisation), demand
for the forest industry’s products and the ability of forests to
perform important environmental functions.
34. Political trends which influence the forest sector include
decentralisation, privatisation, trade liberalisation and economic
35. While the total area of forest cover is in constant decline,
the demand for forest products is steadily growing. One of the most
important trends is the development of more efficient processing
technologies making better final output possible with the use of
a smaller quantity of raw materials. It is also important to shift
to more environment-friendly technologies.
36. The forest industry encompasses industrial timber and other
kinds of wood. The list of wooden products is very long. The forest
industry spans logging, timber processing, the production of pulp
and wood chips, the production of wooden containers, the construction
of wooden buildings and the manufacture of other wooden products.
37. Wood is subsequently processed to produce certain main types
of timber. Various industries use about 20 different techniques,
including sawing, milling, compression forming, forming, abrasive
treatment, drilling, chemical treatment, etc.
38. The main adverse consequence of poor forest management is
overlogging (more wood is logged than grows in any given year).
Overlogging leads to the depletion of forest resources. The world’s
forest resources are currently being overlogged. Forest resources
are renewable, but their regeneration takes on average between eighty
and one hundred years, or even more depending on forest type. If
overlogging occurs across wide areas, it can lead to the extinction
of species as a result of habitat loss.
39. A logging rate below the rate of growth leads to forest ageing,
lower productivity and diseases in old trees. So in order to maximise
the economic feasibility of the forest industry, foresters tend
to advocate forest management based on annual logging rates equal
to annual growth. It should be noted, however, that while logging
rates below the annual growth rate might not be economically rational,
they might be beneficial to biodiversity, as older forests tend
to provide habitats for greater numbers of species, especially rare
and endangered species.
40. Environmental problems are linked not only to the volume of
logging, but also to the methods used. A comparison of positive
and negative consequences shows that selective logging is more costly
but more environmentally friendly.
41. The forest industry provides raw materials for various uses,
from building to furniture to paper. Provided that these products
have a sufficiently long lifespan, they can potentially be regarded
as additional carbon stores. The overall climate-related assessment
of the forest industry, however, needs to be based on careful calculations
of the “carbon footprint” of the whole product life cycle.
42. The use of wood as a renewable energy source can also be part
of a sustainable forestry sector, provided that overlogging is not
allowed and the needs of forest biodiversity are taken into account
by those responsible for management. However, the replacement of
ancient forests with plantations of fast-growing tree species in
order to harvest these for biofuel is a typical case of “greenwash”,
since more carbon may be released as a result of the destruction
of old wood than is saved by replacing fossil fuels with renewables.
43. Forest fires are amongst the
main abiotic factors contributing to ecosystem communities. Fire
is a natural part of the life cycle of some forest ecosystems, such
as the softwood forests of the south-eastern USA. In forests where
fires typically occur, older trees have a characteristic bark that
is resistant to all but the most destructive wildfires. Some types
of pine cones, for example, those of Pinus
banksians, once heated up to a certain temperature easily
release their seeds. In some cases fires lead to soil enrichment
by nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium,
enabling grazing animals to find nutritious food. Thus measures
taken to prevent wildfires can result in changes to ecosystems,
as these depend on recurrent exposure of their vegetation to fire.
A build-up of unnatural quantities of unburnt debris in such forests
can lead to a risk of extreme wildfires. In forest ecosystems with
a natural tendency to catch fire, forest biodiversity to some extent
depends on files of low intensity.
44. However, the majority of forest fires nowadays are of human
origin. The statistics show that 97% of forest fires appear to be
caused by human beings, while only 3% are due to natural causes.
Both flora and fauna suffer from the fires, the vast majority of
which are started by human beings making careless use of fire or breaking
fire safety rules during agricultural activities. Debris-strewn
forests are at greater risk of fire.
45. Every year forest fires consume 2 000 000 tonnes of organic
substances. They also affect the forest industry, reducing the amount
of new growth, bringing about a decline in forest diversity, increasing
the numbers of trees damaged or uprooted by the wind, and causing
soil impoverishment. In addition, forest fires facilitate the spread
of harmful inserts and wood-destroying fungus. Frequent fires prevent
further succession and the natural return of forest cover.
46. In populated areas with intensive forest management, forest-based
enterprises use means such as fire alarm systems, chemicals, fire
stations, etc., in their efforts to safeguard forests as appropriate
from fire. Certain steps need to be taken in order to improve forest
fire resistance by providing forests with a fire suppression capacity:
set up a system of fire breaks and fire barriers, build up transport
infrastructure and water supply networks, and ensure that forest
floors are less strewn with debris.
47. Currently, forest fires are detected/located by fire detection
and observation facilities/posts, as well as through the use of
fire patrols on the ground and satellite monitoring. Ideally, an
operational system for monitoring fires from space would allow complete
coverage in real time of wildfires and their impact. When there
are high concentrations of smoke, airborne infrared detectors would
detect/locate burning areas of forest.
48. While improved fire-fighting technology will have an impact
on fire size, more public education and awareness campaigns on radio,
TV and other media are needed to reduce the number of fires occurring.
49. The second substantial cause
of damage and loss of forests is the occurrence of insect infestations
and disease, one of the greatest threats to forest health, forest
resources and biodiversity. While they are natural ecological processes
in forests, insect infestations and the spread of diseases are tending
to become more frequent as a result of inappropriate management.
Over the past ten years, the average surface area of the territories
in Russia that are constantly affected by insect infestation and
disease has been 5.37 million hectares. Mass reproduction of herbivorous
insects and the spread of diseases can cause forest losses of up to
190 000 hectares. Larger areas of forest succumbed to needle and
leaf-eating insects over the three years from 2005 to 2007, although
in 2008 this phenomenon decreased by 640 000 hectares as compared
to 2007, mainly due to a reduction in the size of planted areas.
50. There are several reasons for this situation: first and foremost
regular sudden arrivals of huge numbers of insects. In favourable
weather conditions insects breed more rapidly, and in most cases,
this leads to infestation. According to the data available for 2007,
Siberian forests, mainly in the oblasts of
Tomskaya and Irkutskaya, were the most severely affected by insect
infestations and diseases.
51. Among the recognised diseases fir canker is the most widespread
(445 000 hectares). In Siberia, outbreaks mainly occur in the oblast
of Kemerovskaya. General aggravation of the pathological situation
in Russian forests – leaving aside the particular biological characteristics
of some insects and diseases – results from an increasingly complex
range of adverse factors and institutional shortcomings in the functioning
of forest protection services, including a lack of specialists in
the field, underfunding of forest pathological studies and monitoring,
and insufficient forest pest control. The first of these shortcomings
can be addressed relatively easily, through better standardisation
and harmonised definitions.
52. To stabilise the pathological situation of forests, forest
protection services/forestry inspectorates engage in practical activities
to protect forests. Different methods and technical means are used
to fight insects and diseases, but none of them are universally
valid, capable of guaranteeing an integrated and wholly successful approach
against all types of insects.
53. Each year specific measures to fight insects and diseases
in designated outbreaks cover a total area of more than 500 000
hectares. The proportion of biological methods that include the
use of bacterial fertilisers and virus preparations may be as high
54. The fight against forest insects and diseases can be effective
and efficient only if it is of a systematic nature, involves all
appropriate means, is targeted on the appropriate types of insects
and diseases and is adjusted to the ecological, climatic and weather
conditions prevailing. It also needs to be borne in mind that, if the
measures adopted to eradicate forest pests and diseases are too
intensive, this can lead to a significant decrease of forest biodiversity.
55. As the new millennium advances,
illegal logging is on the increase. Furthermore, this increase entails breaches
of not only forest and environmental laws, but also the relevant
international conventions. Illegal logging results in huge forest
losses every year, as well as a further loss to the economies of
timber-producing countries. In many cases the proportion of illegally
produced timber far exceeds legal production. The illegal activity
depresses prices and undermines the profitability of legitimate
enterprises. In some countries illegal logging reaches the same
level as legal operations. In Indonesia, for instance, legal logging
amounted to 25-28 million cubic metresin
the late 1990s, while illegal operations lay somewhere between 17
and 30 million cubic metres(Natural Resources
Management programme, Jakarta).
56. In some countries there are even some senior government officials
engaged in illegal logging and other related illicit activities.
According to a study conducted recently in Cameroon as part of the
Global Forest Watch project, some high-level officials have amassed
natural resources portfolios including a very large illegal forestry
concession. It has also been alleged by several scientists that
in Brazil, particularly in the Amazon Region, 80% of all logging
is illegal. Not only tropical forests are subjected to illegal logging,
but boreal forests as well. One example is in British Columbia,
where, because of inadequate or non-existent supervision by the Canadian
forest agencies, excessive logging has become established practice.
There have been cases of logging within specially protected natural
territories in Poland and Belarus. Unfortunately, illegal logging
has become commonplace in Russia, where at least 20% of all logging
is either illegal or involves breaches of the law.
Illegal logging can be divided into the categories below:
Unlicensed (unauthorised) logging
57.1.1 Logging by the local population
– community logging – for non-commercial purposes (according to
rough estimates, such illegal logging accounts for between 8 000
and 10 000 cubic metresper year).
57.1.2 Logging by nationals or organised groups for commercial
purposes (illegal logging, depending on the region, varies from
16 000 to 500 000 cubic metresper year).
57.1.3 Logging by companies in areas where logging is not authorised,
but which are in proximity to either a designated area or an area
not readily accessible and difficult to monitor (illegal logging
is difficult to estimate and may account for hundreds of thousands
of square metres).
57.1.4 Overlogging in authorised and unauthorised areas.
57.1.5 Logging for unauthorised building on a non-forest site.
Licensed but illegal logging – Licensed logging could
be illegal if logging in the area concerned is also against the
law (the logging is not done in accordance with the terms of the
57.2.1 Authorisation for
logging was granted in an area which is protected by the law.
57.2.2 Authorisation for logging was granted in a case not in
accordance with, circumventing or infringing the forest regulations
57.2.3 Authorisation for logging was granted in a special area
following unlawful amendment of the relevant forest instruments.
57.2.4 Forest management is not in accordance with the law.
57.2.5 Logging affected by wrongful activities violating the
laws in force.
58. Illegal logging of high-value
timber exceeds 600 000 cubic metresin
Russia, equivalent in terms of value to 2 to 3 million cubic metres
of timber of lesser value.
59. Reforestation means regeneration
of legally logged forests and replanting of areas affected by illegal logging,
fires and other adverse conditions, and involves the planting of
new forests and an increase in woody species.
60. There are two kinds of reforestation activities: artificial
forestation (creating artificial stands by planting saplings or
seeds) and the encouragement of natural regeneration (involving
the reforestation of logged areas using trees which will provide
high-value timber, for example, mainly Picea and Pinus in taiga).
61. According to official statistics, 40% of logged territory
in Russia was subject to reforestation over the last two decades.
In most cases saplings aged between two and four years were planted
for the purposes of reforestation. This technique has the potential
to ensure a high survival rate, at the same time providing replacement
stands. Saplings are usually planted in small areas next to indiscriminately
logged taiga, so in the vicinity of logging roads (that is, easy
to monitor), whereas the remaining logged areas (90% to 95%) are
left unplanted, although some densely planted areas could be seen,
but only near urban areas.
62. Activities to promote natural regeneration involve the use
of seed trees or seed blocks, provided that seed trees are sufficient
in number and are spaced sufficiently far apart to allow for wind
dispersal. This practice has not always been followed, since such
regeneration measures often boil down to leaving damaged seed trees
without any commercial value which then fail to produce seed as
they die. Certainly, there have been some successful examples of
reforestation in forests of commercial value, where the forest situation
is more or less under control and where there are some, at least,
forestry activities (including logging and the planting of young
trees across greater or lesser areas). Moreover, reforestation of
coniferous forests may be successful in conditions that are unfavourable
for rapid growth of small-leaved trees (such as the most nutrient-poor
sandy or stony soils). However, there are few cases of successful
reforestation of high-value coniferous forests in the taiga zone
(in reality, no more than 5% of the total logging area), and these
do not play a significant role in overall forest development in
areas which have been logged.
63. Reforestation is carried out in many parts of the world, especially
in countries of eastern Asia, where it is used as a means of increasing
the forested area. The areas covered by forests have increased in
22 of the 50 most forest-rich countries. Asia as a whole gained
1 million hectares of forests during the period from 2000 to 2005,
and rainforests in El Salvador expanded by more than 20% between
1992 and 2001.
64. In the People’s Republic of China, where forest loss had been
widespread, the government adopted a law requiring every citizen
aged between 11 and 60 who is fit for work to plant between three
and five trees per year or do equivalent work in other forest services,
or to pay a corresponding amount of tax. The Chinese Government
states that about 1 billion trees have been planted in China since
1982. On 12 March each year, China celebrates Tree Planting Day.
The country has also begun a Green Wall of China project whereby
trees are planted in an effort to prevent expansion of the Gobi
desert. However, the high death rate of trees after planting (up
to 75%) has led to an acknowledgement that the project has not been
very successful. Since the 1970s, the overall area covered by forests
in China has increased by 47 million hectares. Some twenty years ago
only 12% of Chinese territory was forested; the figure today is
16.55%. While this is 4.55% higher, it is not a very high level
considering the stated quantity of reforestation activities.
65. The current growth of forest areas in Europe is largely the
result of the serious scientific approach adopted to reforestation,
but it should be also noted that a large proportion of the forests
planted in Europe are monocultures with little biodiversity. Worse
still, the proportion of these plantations for which alien species
are used is not negligible. Similar problems are found in other
parts of the world as well.
66. All over the world, ownership
issues arise in respect of forests, with title often non-existent.
67. When the EU had only 15 member states, approximately one third
of their forests and other woodlands were state property, as against
two thirds privately owned. The percentage in state ownership has subsequently
increased. While this change in the structure of forest ownership
was coming about, other changes were occurring in the professional
activities and lifestyles of private forest owners. In certain regions they
no longer derive their main income from forestry, their lifestyle
being increasingly city-based.
68. Although the percentage in private ownership has declined,
the number of private forestry businesses has nevertheless risen.
Some forests have been returned to their former owners in the EU’s
new member states, reintroducing the concept of private forest ownership
in those countries. There are, however, great variations in the
forest management skills and understanding of owners, in the size
of forestry businesses, in the expectations of forest management
and in the interest that it arouses.
69. The average size of public forestry businesses in the EU is
over 1 000 hectares, compared with just 13 hectares for private
businesses. The situation varies considerably from one country to
another, and most private owners hold less than 3 hectares. In this
respect, the structure of forest ownership in the EU differs from that
in countries elsewhere with large amounts of forest resources, where
the public ownership model is the most common, or even the only
70. Brazil is the country with the most extensive tropical forests
in the world, and approximately 64% of its territory (some 544 million
hectares) is covered by woodlands of one kind or another.
71. Its natural forest surface area which can be used for timber
production is calculated to be 412 million hectares, of which approximately
124 million are in public ownership, including national forests,
indigenous reserves, national parks and other conservation areas.
The other 288 million hectares are mostly in private ownership.
It is estimated that 15% of the forest surface area potentially
usable for timber production is subject to permanent conservation
measures, for such purposes as riverbank or water source protection,
in accordance with the provisions of the country’s Forestry Code.
The forest surface area effectively available to supply timber is
thus of the order of 350 million hectares.
72. In Brazil, the national space research institute produces
annual deforestation statistics on the basis of between 100 and
220 photographs taken during the dry season by the Landsat satellite.
According to the institute, the biome of the Amazonian forest, originally
covering 4 100 000 sq. km in Brazil, had been reduced to 3 403 000
sq. km by 2005, representing a loss of 17.1%. Since 1970, the area
of tropical forest lost is equivalent to the size of Texas (and
larger than France). During the worst year for deforestation, 1995,
an area the size of Belgium was lost to a constant onslaught by
chainsaws and practitioners of slash and burn.
73. Former US Vice President Al Gore drew the wrath of Brazil
a few years ago when he said that Amazonia belonged to the world
as a whole. More recently, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula
da Silva denounced some British politicians who were encouraging
their fellow citizens to buy plots of land in Amazonia to save them
from exploitation. He proclaimed that Amazonia belonged to the Brazilians.
74. In the nine countries of Africa with the largest amount of
forest cover, almost every forest remains publicly owned. Official
figures indicate state ownership of 98% of the forest surface area.
75. There are several cases in which effective reform of forest
ownership in Africa is prevented by a lack of political will and
enthusiasm to recognise local and indigenous rights. Inadequate
preparation and execution of reform are also problematic, even where
indigenous populations’ and forest communities’ statutory rights
76. The precedence given by governments to industrial concessions
and conservation rather than the rights and subsistence of communities
has also curbed effective reform. Lack of clarity in ownership rules
has enabled governments to promote major concessions for logging,
oil extraction, mineral extraction, biofuels and other agricultural
products, to the detriment of forest populations.
77. Congo’s Minister for Sustainable Development has estimated
that expenditure of several billions would be needed just to find
out all about forest resources and draw up inventories.
initiatives for forest conservation and sustainable use
78. Both of the key global environmental
conventions signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 – the Framework Convention
on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity – entail
work on conservation and sustainable use of the world’s forests.
79. Questions arise today about how to distribute funds, which
body should be responsible for managing them, and whether it is
necessary to provide for a fund just for forests or to include forests
in what should ultimately become a major “green fund”, bearing in
mind that that the developed countries have made a commitment to
international funding of US$100 billion a year from 2020 onwards.
80. On 11 March 2010 the International Conference on the Major
Forest Basins was held in Paris, in an effort to consolidate and,
if possible, increase the early funding for forestry and climate
matters announced in Copenhagen and the national activities based
on the REDD+ mechanism announced by developing countries.
81. In a joint communiqué published during the Copenhagen Conference,
six states (Australia, France, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom
and the United States) had announced their intention to allocate
a collective total of almost US$3.5 billion to REDD+ initial financing
for the period from 2010 to 2012, so that activities to combat deforestation
could be started immediately.
82. One of the major obstacles to the fight against deforestation
is the fact that a living tree is frequently of lower commercial
value than a felled tree. The mechanism for Reducing Emissions from
Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is intended precisely
to remove this obstacle by assigning a financial value to forestry
emissions that have been prevented. The name REDD+ is used when
account is taken not only of prevented emissions, but also of forests’
carbon storage capacity and the good governance and planning of forests.
Several programmes have been set up to finance this mechanism.
Among them are:
- The United
Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
in Developing Countries programme;
- Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative;
- The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
84. Australia, France, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom and the
United States have confirmed their joint commitment to the tune
of US$3.5 billion for the period from 2010 to 2012, while Germany,
Slovenia, Spain and the European Commission have joined this first
group of donors.
85. Present-day problems and the
unsatisfactory condition of the planet’s forests are the result
of a failure to make sound use of forest resources and forest management
(in both developed and developing countries), as well as slowness
to develop and deploy sustainable forest management techniques (including,
first of all, the kind of forest management and forest resource
usage which makes it possible to maintain not only forests’ productivity,
but also their biological functions, aesthetic and recreational
value, and landscape and biological diversity).
86. Today, forest fires, illegal logging, diseases and insect
activity in large areas pose a great problem for forests. All these
negative aspects are directly linked with human activity. It has
been established that only 3% of the forest fires recorded each
year are of natural origin, while the remaining 97% are caused by
87. The areas worst affected by forest diseases and insect proliferation
are linked with those affected by human activities and not subject
to rehabilitation activities.
88. Illegal logging not only has a negative effect in terms of
forest destruction, but also has more far-reaching environmental
and economic consequences. Such logging is always brutal: no seed
trees are left at the logging sites, and the areas concerned are
subjected to pollution and uncontrolled growth of mono-dominant communities
(loss of biodiversity), lacking any species of no commercial value.
Afterwards, these areas usually become very prone to fire (being
strewn with debris) and to diseases and insect infestations (mono-dominant communities).
It is unsurprising that similar consequences are often seen in areas
which have been put to lawful use, but where the loggers subsequently
just pretend that they have carried out reforestation activities.
89. All the problems linked to negative conditions in forests
stem from the lack of due supervision of forest condition and forest
users’ activities, and from the differences between and imperfections
of forest legislation in various countries.
In this context, the following ways of dealing with the problems
that exist could be proposed:
of a committee within an existing organisation (the UN, for instance)
to be responsible for the development, adoption and enforcement
of legislation designed to preserve and protect forests; development
and implementation of sustainable forest management (SFM) techniques.
- Development of international legislation (agreements)
on forest protection which are binding on all the countries with
significant forest resources which have ratified them.
- Development of proposals for payments in respect of every
unit of greenhouse gases, to be centralised by the committee that
is to be created and allocated for forest rehabilitation purposes
to countries which have forest resources, in proportion to the volumes
of greenhouse gases absorbed by their forests.
- Supervision of compliance with the requirements of such
new legislation within the committee that is to be created and monitoring
of forest condition should be carried out by the international environmental organisations
which exist in countries with significant forest resources, and
which will be registered (accredited) with the committee that is
to be created.