Earth’s tree-covered areas fell by 35,204 sq km in 15 years

• A preliminary assessment report circulated by the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) shows that tree-covered areas remain the dominant land use class.

• While the rate of deforestation has slowed down after 2005, forests continue to shrink.

Key highlights of this assessment report

• The assessment is for the 2000-2015 period. Currently, the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 17) of UNCCD is meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.

• This is the first such global assessment of land degradation based on data submitted by countries party to the convention.

• Out of the 197 countries party to UNCCD, 145 have submitted data on land degradation.

• The preliminary assessment based on this data shows that the world’s dominant land class is still the tree-covered areas that include natural forests.

• Tree-covered areas account for 32.4 per cent of total land cover area reported by countries.

Key concerns

• Globally, tree-covered areas fell by ~1, 41,610 sq km from 2000 to 2005, but rebounded by 2015 to a net decline of 35,204 sq km (-0.1 per cent) below 2000 levels,” says the assessment.

• Tree-covered areas have increased in Central and Eastern Europe, the Northern Mediterranean and Asia. Such areas have decreased in Latin American and Caribbean countries and Africa.

• Sixty per cent of the tree-covered areas globally are in Central and Eastern Europe and in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

• After tree-covered areas, grasslands, croplands, wetlands and artificial surfaces represent 23.1 per cent, 17.7 per cent, 4.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent of the total reported land area, respectively.

• However, the world has reported the highest change in the land class called artificial areas that primarily account for lands diverted for uses like urbanisation.

• This class recorded a 32.2 per cent growth in the 2000-2015 period. In other words, an addition of 1, 68, 000 square kilometres.

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims level: CRIC 17 Assessment

Mains level: Impact of Urbanization on forest cover

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