Two recent influential documents mapped the current state of forest resources, and how it has changed over time. In a study published in the latest issue of Nature, researchers estimated that there are just over 3 trillion trees in the world. This number is about 46% less than what is estimated to have existed before major human development around agriculture started around 12000 years ago. 

The second report is the FAO State of World Forest Resources report, that was launched during the just past World Forestry conference in Durban. The report estimates a net loss of 129 million forests over the 25 years, and area roughly the size of South Africa. Fortunately this rate seems to have slowed over the last 5 years.

This loss would have been greater was it not for the 110 million ha of forest plantations that were planted in the same time. When done right (which is not always the case unfortunately), plantations can provide many of the ecosystem services that natural forests offer, including supporting biodiversity. They are highly productive, providing income through jobs and ownership in areas often not suited to any other economic activity. Over and above, they relieve pressure on natural forests. 

Both natural and planted forests are under severe pressure from emerging pests and pathogens, either invasive or adapting from surrounding hosts. Dealing with this threat has been the topic of a recent paper by FABI researchers in the Science special issue on Forest Health. 

A FABIan, Prof. Bernard Slippers, also wrote on this topic for The Conversation in the past week. The Conversation is a web based News and Views portal or blog on current topics. The journal aims to combine ‘Academic rigour and journalistic flair’. The articles are written by academics from around the world, but supported by journalists to make it as readable and accessible as possible to a wider audience.   

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