Forest cover across Asia-Pacific to help replanting programs

Forest cover across the Asia-Pacific is on the rise helped in part by large-scale reforestation programs, in a surprising turnaround after years of decline, according to the U.N. agriculture agency Monday.

The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005 released by the Food and Agriculture Organization found that the Asia-Pacific region had a net gain of 633,000 hectares of forests in the past five years due to increased plantation activity.

That contrast with a decline in the 1990s of 1.27 million hectares per year from 1990 to 2000.

"The steady adoption of sustainable forest policies in the region is thus starting to have a positive impact," He Changchui, the FAO's chief in the region.

According to He, forest plantations now cover 11 percent of the total forest areas in Asia and 2 percent of the forest areas in the Pacific. They are expanding at a rate of 1.8 million hectares per year in Asia and 74,800 hectares per year in the Pacific.

Nearly 50 percent of the forest in Asia are used for production purposes while only 13 percent are managed for conservation and diversity, the FAO said.

The increases are mostly in the East Asia subregion, the FAO said, while Southeast Asia continues to see steady declines in forest cover mostly due to illegal logging.

But while the increased plantations have contributed to increased forest cover, they have come under attack from environmentalists. They contend that plantations, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, are the sources of haze-producing fires and are much less ecologically diverse that the tropical forest they replace, reports the AP. I.L.

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