A new report from the United Nations has warned forests in the Asia-Pacific region are facing a serious threat as primary forest cover is now only 19 percent of total forest area—the lowest level of any region worldwide, a major gathering of forestry stakeholders heard.
Some 2,000 delegates participated in the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Korea Forest Service, at Incheon, South Korea.
Asia and the Pacific have the lowest per capita forest area of any world region.
But quantity is not the only issue. “With primary forests at only 19 percent of the total forest area, compared with a global average of 32 percent, we are worried about the lack of forest quality in our region—as primary forests are rich in biodiversity—and once that’s gone it’s gone,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative, in a statement released Sunday.
“We need to urgently preserve what’s left of our primary forests. Time is running out and we must act now.”
Kadiresan called for a regional and coordinated approach to protecting the region’s forests—something she referred to as ‘forests without borders.’
“Unfortunately, conservation of forests in one country often just shifts deforestation to another. We have witnessed many cases where new frontiers of deforestation emerged as a result of logging bans elsewhere,” she said. Tackling illegal logging and forest crimes would require producer and consumer countries to cooperate with each other, participants heard.
Population growth, urbanization and their toll on forests and landscapes
Population growth, urbanization and demographic shifts have significant impacts on forests of the Asia-Pacific region and their impacts will be even greater in the decades to come.
Even though population growth has slowed, by 2050 the Asia-Pacific region can still expect an additional 666 million inhabitants.
That’s equivalent to the present-day populations of Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam—combined.
Economies in the Asia-Pacific region have also been expanding rapidly since the 1980s, creating a growing middle class. The region’s GDP grew from more than 17 trillion dollars in 2000 to 47 trillion in 2017 (in purchasing power parity terms). Industrial development has driven urbanization, with urban-dwellers now accounting for 46 percent of the region’s total population, compared with 30 percent in 1990.