Ecology And Environment

Expanding Forests



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Everybody hears about the vanishing South American rain forests and the creation of wastelands as wood is cut up and used for charcoal in Africa. But are there any countries with expanding forest coverage? Any places where the woods are not only not being cut, but are actually recovering and increasing in size?

Fortunately, yes, and even more areas are getting involved!

The European Union reported an increase in forests over the past 15 years in 27 of their member countries, and that was in both Eastern and Western Europe. A University of Helsinki study reported that most of these countries have seen at least a 10% expansion in their forests. This study, done in 2006 claims that some counties are now more wooded than they were 200 years ago! This is great news, but are there other places?

Canada and the United States both had areas of expanding forest. With improved crop strains and better techniques, less farmland was needed and many places were reverting back to their wooded state. Unfortunately, with increases in oil prices, more places are now converting these old farm fields back to corn for ethanol! The woodlands are swinging back and forth, making it difficult to tell if they are really expanding or not.

So South America is no, Europe is definitely yes and North America a maybe. What about Africa, Asia and Australia as well as small island nations?

Africa is hard to tell as governments keep changing, some creating National Parks and planting trees while the successor closes out the Park and cuts the trees for charcoal. The soil gets damaged and many of the creatures necessary for the woods are rapidly disappearing. Many groups are trying to stop this and help, but success it difficult to tell. The same applies to Asia.

Australians report that they have moved from shrinking timberlands to expanding forests, but seem unsure when the trend started! Their forests are being expanded to meet their own and the world's lumber needs. They have been actively creating forests out of wastelands for decades!

And that leaves the small island nations. What are their forests doing? Unfortunately, no one really knows. There are no Universities that really monitor them and major conservation groups usually ignore them as they have been manipulated so much that there is little of the native ecosystems left. A few studies in the Caribbean show great variability; Haiti is barren and yet the Dominican Republic well forested, and they are on the same island!

Countries with expanding forests, there are quite a few. Hopefully more will start following in their footsteps.

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