Deforestation is the greatest threat to valuable biodiversity, with around 10 million hectares lost to deforestation each year, mainly for agricultural expansion, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The key to thwarting deforestation is sustainable forest management, the report says. “Protecting the animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms that thrive in forests must become a fundamental goal of sustainable forest management worldwide.”
The world’s forests provide habitats for about 80 percent of amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species and 68 percent of mammal species. In addition, about 60 percent of all vascular plants occur in tropical forests. The importance of sustainable forest management has long been recognized, but more action in a concerted manner is needed.
“The conservation of the world’s biodiversity is utterly dependent on the way in which we interact with and use the world’s forests,” said Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director of FAO’s Forestry Division, of the report, Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Forestry. The report was released at the 8th World Forest Week on the sidelines of the 26th Session of FAO’s Committee on Forestry.
The report assesses tools and methods of ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is integrated into forest policy, strategy and management. Through a series of case studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Finland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and the United Kingdom it explores lessons learned and identifies good practices.
It recommends actions that governments and development partners can take “to facilitate the mainstreaming of biodiversity in forest management”:
- Halting and reversing deforestation
- Combating illegal and unregulated forest activities
- Recognizing the forest tenure of Indigenous Peoples and local communities
- Preventing the conversion of natural forests into monospecific forest plantations
- Ensuring the sustainable management of harvested species
- Managing and controlling invasive and overabundant species
- Leveraging global momentum on restoration to enhance biodiversity conservation
- Adopting a multisectoral perspective
- Providing economic incentives
- Facilitating market-based instruments
- Investing in knowledge and capacity development
“We hope that the wealth of information and recommendations made in this study will inspire action from those involved in forest management and conservation,” said FAO Forestry Officer Kenichi Shono.
The role of forests in maintaining biodiversity is explicitly recognized by the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017–2030 and in 2019, FAO adopted the Strategy on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors.
Lots of hope, lots of studies: time for action.