60-Second Earth

How to Save the Woods

The first step in solving the world's forest problem is recognizing the world's forest problem. David Biello reports

Just 25 countries hold almost all of the world's undisturbed forests. More than half of that forest is in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Russia and the U.S. And only 22 percent of forestland worldwide is protected.

Those figures are from a new analysis in the journal Conservation Letters. [Brendan Mackey et al: Policy Options for the World's Primary Forests in Multilateral Environmental Agreements]

So what could be done to save the 13 million plus square kilometers of untouched forests? After all, they're home to more than half of the world's plants and animals and provide necessities like clean air and clean water for us humans. But they’re under serious threat, whether from logging, mining or farming. Such land use change is why only 3 percent of the forest that existed in the past still remains in the temperate parts of the globe.

One suggestion for preservation is to make forests a part of international environmental negotiations, like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has tried to do. The goods and services forests provide should be incorporated into economic assessments as well, not just the value of their board feet of lumber. And the world's governments should avoid further forest losses, to slow climate change and the current rate of extinction. 

And here's another thought: forests that are owned by the communities that actually live in them tend not to be cut down. So local ownership could help forests survive. 

— David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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