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Study Finds Only Five Percent of Tropical Forests Are Protected

This is Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

A major study has looked at efforts to save the tropical forests that remain in the world. Researchers found that less than five percent of the forest land is being protected.

The study examined the use of sustainable management plans by forest operators. Such a plan seeks a continuous flow of forest products, without damage to the future of the forest or its environment.

The International Tropical Timber Organization did the study. The researchers studied the supervision of more than eight hundred million hectares of forests in thirty-three countries. This land represents two-thirds of all the natural tropical forests in the world.

Tropical forests are divided into two major kinds: production and protection.

Production forests are harvested for wood. These forests can be natural or planted. The study found that only about seven percent of production forests are managed sustainably.

Yet four times as much land is supposed to be managed under plans developed by forest operators. The researchers say it is much easier to develop a plan than to follow it, even if operators truly want to.

Protection forests are recognized as valuable not for harvested wood, but as shelters for animal and plant life, a lot of it rare.

Protected areas represent more than four hundred sixty million hectares of forests. Yet management plans have been developed for just four percent of that land. And the study found that the plans are being followed on only two percent.

From Asia to Africa to the Americas, progress is uneven in efforts to save tropical forests. Good management requires law enforcement and money. It also requires interest and ability.

Yet there is good news. The report says sustainably managed forests now cover at least thirty-six million hectares, an area the size of Germany.

The United Nations established the International Tropical Timber Organization in nineteen eighty-six. The group was formed in reaction to concerns about shrinking forest resources. At the time, almost none of the world’s tropical forests had plans for sustainable management.

Fifty-nine nations are members of the organization which is based in Yokohama, Japan. They are responsible for about eighty percent of the world’s tropical forests and ninety percent of trade in tropical wood.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Read and listen to our reports at This is Shep O'Neal.