The latest edition of The State of the World’s Forests, released on the 22 May 2020, by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) paints a worrying picture. The world’s forests continue to shrink, all be it at a slightly lesser rate, as a result of deforestation – 420 million hectares lost since 1990 – and if this is not addressed the impact on global biodiversity will be devastating.
Published to coincide with the International Day for Biological Diversity, the report shows that conservation of the world’s biodiversity is utterly dependent on how we interact with and use the world’s forests. Over 60 000 tree species, 80% of amphibians, 75% of birds and 68% of the Earth’s mammals are found within our planet’s forests.
According to the SA Government approximately 0.5% of South Africa’s total land area, 530 000 hectares, is covered by indigenous forests. Yet this small area accounts for almost half the country’s 1700 indigenous trees and shrub species. Approximately half of South Africa’s indigenous forests are found on private property or land under communal tenure and according to a survey of FSA members conducted by Dr John Scotcher in 2016 over 73 000 hectares, or 14% of SA’s indigenous forests, can be found within forestry-owned or managed land. This is a statistic we need to first update and then as a Sector promote, especially with more emphasis now being placed on the need to conserve biodiversity within a mixed-use landscape.
The report also draws the reader’s attention to the 2021 Heralds the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, with FAO and United Nations Environmental Programme both pushing the need for increased global cooperation to restore degraded and damaged ecosystems to combat climate change and safeguard biodiversity. The Forestry Sector’s rehabilitation of wetlands would provide a perfect case study, perhaps in celebration of the launch, we should produce a document that presents three decades of wetland rehabilitation?