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China gains in forests, world's diminishes
Updated: 2005-11-15 15:42

Widespread tree planting in China has slowed the rate at which the earth's forested area is dwindling, the New York Times quoted a new United Nations report as saying.

The study was published Monday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, based in Rome.

"While good progress is being made in many places, unfortunately forest resources are still being lost or degraded at an alarmingly high rate worldwide," said Hosny El-Lakany, assistant director-general of forestry for the agency.

The slowing rate of forest loss is encouraging, some forest experts say, but biologists contend that most acreage gained by plantation forestry contains a fraction of the plant and animal diversity destroyed with virgin forests.

Forest cover has generally been expanding in China, North America, and Europe and diminishing in the tropics.

South America has passed Africa in net annual loss of forests, the report said. Much recent clearing in South America has occurred in the southern Amazon basin, where jungle is rapidly being converted to pasture and farmland, especially soybean fields.

Asia has seen an extraordinary turnaround in a decade: it lost about 3,000 square miles of forest a year in the 90's but gained nearly 4,000 annually since 2000, said Mette Loyche Wilkie of the FAO. But almost all of that change has occurred because of China's new forest policy, she said.

Tropical forests elsewhere in Asia are still being cleared at a rising pace, the report said.

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