Good News on Forests—They're Coming Back!


I apologize for getting to this topic so late, but last November researchers published a fascinating paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that forests are expanding in many countries. The researchers report that forests began to spread once average per capita GDP has reached a certain income threshold. From the paper:

Among 50 nations with extensive forests reported in the Food and Agriculture Organization's comprehensive Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005, no nation where annual per capita gross domestic product exceeded $4,600 had a negative rate of growing stock change…

Recent assessments suggest that forest transitions of the kind experienced in Europe and the U.S. during recent centuries are now spreading to some other parts of the world. Deforestation does continue in about half of the 50 nations with most forest. However, 36% of the 50 increased forest area and 44% increased biomass. Without depopulation or impoverishment, increasing numbers of countries are now experiencing transitions in forest area and density.

The study supports the notion that economic growth is the key to maintaining and restoring environmental quality. The researchers stress that we should not be complacent about this positive trend, but it is, nevertheless, good environmental news.

Whole paper here.

Disclosure: I use a lot of paper in my job and I still read scads of dead-tree media. I do not own any stocks in paper or lumber companies, even though they are responsible for planting more trees than Peace Prize Nobelist Wangari Maathai.