Chapter 6: Forests: Conflicting Signals

Chapter 6: Forests: Conflicting Signals

December 31, 1994

Though nearly 75 percent of the total industrial wood production comes from Northern Hemisphere industrial countries, the temperate forestlands of this region are expanding.

The world’s current industrial wood consumption requirements could be produced on only 5 percent of the world’s total current forestland.

About one-third of the earth’s terrestrial area remains wilderness.

Tropical forests cover a land area that is almost exactly the size of South America.

Tropical and temperate forests together cover a land area the size of the Western Hemisphere.

The rate of conversion of the tropical forests increased from 0.6 percent in 1980 to about 0.8 percent in 1990.

Fully two-thirds of the deforestation in the United States occurred in the sixty years prior to 1910 and most of the other third before 1850.

Although the United States has been the world’s number one timber producer since World War II, U.S. forests have experienced an increase in volume in the past fifty years and have maintained roughly the same area over the past seventy-five years.

The total area of forest and other wooded land in Europe increased by 2 million hectares annually between 1980 and 1990.

The total forest area of the temperate region’s industrialized countries increased between 1980 and 1990.

During 1993, an estimated 4 million trees were planted in the United States each day.

The forest biomass in the northern Rockies has increased by 30 percent or more since the middle of the eighteenth century.

In recent years, private forestlands have accounted for 85 percent of total tree planting and seeding in the United States.

The expansion of American forests has been made possible by improved tree-growing technology, the advent of tree plantations, improved control over wildfire, and the reversion of many agricultural lands, especially in the South and East, to forest.

Deforestation in the Americas was probably greater before the Columbian encounter than it was for several centuries after.

The recent proliferation of plantation forests in both the temperate and the tropical world has helped to deflect harvesting pressure from natural forests.

Almost all of the timber harvested in the United States, Europe, and Nordic countries comes from second-growth/plantation forests.

Commercial logging is not a major cause of deforestation; expanding agriculture is. In temperate countries, which provide over three-fourths of the world’s industrial wood, reforestation is the rule, while in tropical countries forestland conversion to agriculture remains common.

The developed countries in the temperate regions appear to have largely completed forestland conversion to agriculture and have achieved relative land use stability. By contrast, the developing countries in the tropics are still in a land conversion mode. This suggests that land conversion stability correlates strongly with successful economic development.