Spotlight on forests

Forest clearing to make way for agriculture continues at a high rate, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report published before the launch of 2011 as the UN International Year of Forests on 2 February.

Between 2000 and 2010, the world's total forest area decreased at an annual rate of 5.2 million hectares, equivalent to the size of Costa Rica, states the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment.

Since forests support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people globally, house 80 percent of the world's bio-diversity and reduce carbon in the atmosphere, Frances Seymour, director-general of the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research, said the declaration was a good opportunity to raise awareness about forest-friendly initiatives.

"[Given that] governments face significant political and financial risks [from the domestic forestry sector] in undertaking deforestation initiatives, this gives us a chance to show support for their decisions," said Seymour.

Recent IRIN coverage on forests: