Major trends show that the global population is likely to increase to 8.2 billion people in 2030, predominantly in urban areas.
What does that mean?
In a nutshell, it implies a growing demand for land and natural resources, i.e. agricultural and forest products, due to the increased per capita consumption of food and increased urbanization in the future.This situation will reinforce the trend of deforestation, increasingly driven by global commodity markets.
Growing economic growth will also influence the level of consumption of goods, from food (agricultural products including livestock) to energy (fuel-based, biofuel, fuelwood/biomass), and mining products.
This sounds good, what is the problem?
The problem is the planet´s natural resources are not unlimited. Global Forest Resources Assessment reported that the world is covered by a total of 4 billion hectares of forest, or equal to 31% of the total land (FAO 2010).
But globally, rainforest area as big as 27 soccer field is disappearing every minute due to deforestation (WWF 2014). Between 1990 and 2000 alone, there was an estimate net loss of 8.3 million hectares per year, and the following decade, up to 2010, there was a net loss of 6.2 million hectares per year (TheREDDdesk 2016). This loss rate is particularly high in tropical regions.
In many countries, forests are under great pressure from agricultural expansion, infrastructure development and wood production. Agriculture is estimated to be the driver for around 80% of deforestation worldwide (FCP 2012).
Whereas in Latin America, commercial agriculture (including livestock) is reportedly the most important driver of deforestation, representing about 2/3 of the total deforested area, followed by timber and logging activities (Ibid.)
And these trends are likely to continue. Historical patterns in drivers of deforestation and forest degradation may not necessarily be repeated in the future. There will be some shift, but our forests will remain under pressure.
Why is this a big concern?
It is a big concern because forests are more than trees. They produce vital oxygen. They are home to millions of indigenous people whose livelihood depend on it, as well as countless plant and animal species.
When forests are lost, they lose their homes. The world’s population rely on benefits that forests offer, such as food, fresh water, timber, traditional medicine, etc.
And forest goods tend to be more climate-resilient than traditional agriculture crops and so when disasters strike or crops fail, forests act as safety nets protecting communities from losing all sources of food and income.
They also regulate waterways, protect soil, cool cities and entire regions, and more.
And most importantly, forests can soak up carbon dioxide, and therefore help to regulate the world’s climate.
Forests are important in determining the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
And thus, increasing the pace of climate change.