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New UN satellite survey of forests charts extent of global deforestation

(Xinhua)

16:00, December 01, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- The rate of global deforestation, mainly the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land, averaged 14.5 million hectares a year between 1990 and 2005, according to a satellite-based survey released on Wednesday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The findings of the global remote sensing survey show that the world's total forest area in 2005 was 3.69 billion hectares, or 30 percent of the global land area, UN officials said here.

Worldwide, the net loss of forest area between 1990 and 2005 was not as great as previously believed, since gains in forest areas are larger than previously estimated, according to the survey.

The net loss -- when losses of forest cover are partially offset by afforestation or natural expansion -- totaled 72.9 million hectares, or 32 percent less than the previous figure of 107.4 million hectares, said the UN agency, adding that in other words, the planet lost an average of 4.9 million hectares of forest per year, or nearly 10 hectares of forest per minute over the 15-year period.

The new data also show that the net loss of forests accelerated, increasing from 4.1 million hectares per year between 1990 and 2000 to 6.4 million hectares between 2000 and 2005.

The figures are based on the most comprehensive use yet of high- resolution satellite data to provide a sample of forests worldwide. They differ from previous findings of the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment last year, which were based on a compilation of country reports that used a wide variety of sources.

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