Forest Carbon Emissions Decline With Reduced Deforestation

The first decade of the 21st century has seen a decrease in global deforestation, bringing with it a reduction in forest carbon emissions. According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), for the first time on record a declining rate of deforestation, combined with the planting of new forests and natural regeneration, has reversed a trend and slowed the rate of global forest cover loss.

Good news, or less bad news?

Over the past decade, on average, the world lost about 13 million hectares of native forest every year, compared with 16 million hectares in the 90’s. Actual net global forest loss is 5.2 million hectares on average annually for the past decade when accounting for reforestation, afforestation, and natural regeneration. Down from a net loss of 8.3 million hectares annually through the previous decade.

Of course, there’s more to the dynamic than just total global forest cover, and the good news isn’t distributed evenly. The report warns that deforestation remains “alarmingly high” in some countries, and that forestland undisturbed by human activity continues its steady decline.

The big winners in the report are Brazil and Indonesia, two heavily-forested nations that have historically gone at their forest with a vengeance. The report says that both nations have “significantly reduced” their rates of deforestation.

According to FAO estimates, forests are responsible for storing 289 gigatonnes of carbon. On average, about 500 million tonnes (half a gigatonne) are released into the atmosphere annually from forest loss, but emissions are off their high of the 90’s, declining in concert with reduced deforestation.

To answer the question: less bad news, in this case, equals good news. Continued good news is even better.

Source and further reading:

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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