The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Five     Number Two                           Late Fall 2001

Study Calls for Focus Upon Conserving Large Forest Blocks

A major new comprehensive satellite survey of global forest cover has found that humankind has destroyed more of the World's forests than previously thought. The new report by UNEP and NASA is entitled "An Assessment of the Status of the World's Remaining Closed Forests" and is available at:

The study found that 80% of the World's remaining large and contiguous blocks of closed canopy forests; which include virgin, old growth and naturally regenerated woodlands, are located in just 15 countries. They are Russia, Canada, Brazil, the United States of America, Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, India, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

This first uniformly conducted global survey of forest cover also revealed that countries have overestimated the size of their forests and the extent of their decline. Other findings include noting that 88 percent of closed forests are in sparsely populated areas, and thus face only limited immediate threats from clearance for agriculture, development or logging. But less than 10% of forests have any formal protected status.

On the basis of these findings, the report recommends focusing conservation efforts on the 15 countries identified as containing the largest forest blocks. The report states, "Knowing it is unlikely that all forests can be protected, it would be better to focus conservation priorities on those target areas that have the best prospects for continued existence." Scarce conservation resources are the rationale given for doing so. concurs that the World's forest conservation efforts should pay special, but not exclusive, attention to these areas - on the basis of their large forest expanses. It is only in these large forests that natural ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes can be more fully maintained. But we need to heed other priority setting tools such as hotspot analysis as well. The answer to the problem of scarce conservation resources is to acquire more, through organization and campaigns to lift the profile of these issues to the level that their urgency demands. Global Planetary ecosystem functionality is at stake; and conservationists should stop arguing how to cut up the conservation funding pie and start working to increase funding to pursue multiple supportive approaches.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of UNEP, compellingly makes the case that "The importance of healthy forests cannot be underestimated... ...Forests are vital for the well being of the planet. They provide a variety of socioeconomic and ecological goods and services." On a perhaps overly pessimistic note, he states "Short of a miraculous transformation in the attitude of people and governments, the Earth's remaining closed-canopy forests and their associated biodiversity are destined to disappear in the coming decades.", our partners and thousands of other modest grassroots efforts are committed to making the miracle of global forest sustainability a reality

The above report is from the website of

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