If the economy of a country grows, the size of its forests increases as well – a Finnish study concluded.
Vilma Sandström, a co-worker from Helsinki University and colleagues, examined the factors that influence the shrinkage or growth of forests in different parts of the world. Their results were presented in the Plos One magazine.
The researchers used data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on forest land data between 1990 and 2015. They provide information for 130 countries with three quarters of all forest areas in the world. These statistics were reconciled with environmental and socioeconomic factors.
The change in the forest area showed a significant degree of consistency with the economic situation of a given country: between 1990 and 2015 the stock of forests grew by 1.31 percent per year in high income countries and by 0.5 per cent in the upper middle income category. In the lower middle-income countries, the number of forest areas fell by 0.29 percent and in the low-income countries fell by 0.72 percent.
Similarly, a strong correlation can be observed with the Human Development Index (HDI), which includes life expectancy and qualifications.
“Highly developed countries use modern agricultural methods in good areas and leave marginal areas to expand forests. Industrial countries invest in sustainable forest management and conservation programs,” the experts say.
At the same time, they acknowledge that richer countries are gaining access to large-scale food and other goods from the poorer.
The researchers did not find a clear statistical correlation between temperature rise and the extent of forests – at least outside Europe.
Forests are of great importance in the era of climate change, as they have greenhouse gas emissions. “Unfortunately, we continue to produce biologically rich forests. New, extensive areas are less diverse, especially where they are planted with monocultures,” writes scientists about tropical rainforests.
According to the FAO data, the extent of the Earth’s forest areas decreased by 3 percent from 1990 to 2015.