Deforestation is an ongoing global problem. From this National Geographic webpage:

The quickest solution to deforestation would be to simply stop cutting down trees. [However], financial realities make this unlikely to occur. ... A more workable solution is to carefully manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to make sure that forest environments remain intact. ... The number of new tree plantations is growing each year, but their total still equals a tiny fraction of the Earth’s forested land.

How much forested land is currently protected from logging/deforestation? How much is currently at risk? How do tree plantations compare in overall size? I'm hoping someone could answer these questions in terms of the main countries involved.

Here is what I have found thus far:

From http://www.earth-policy.org/indicators/C56

Forests cover 31 percent of the world's land surface, just over 4 billion hectares. This is down from the pre-industrial area of 5.9 billion hectares. ... According to data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization [below], deforestation was at its highest rate in the 1990s, when each year the world lost on average 16 million hectares of forest—roughly the size of the state of Michigan. At the same time, forest area expanded in some places, either through planting or natural processes, bringing the global net loss of forest to 8.3 million hectares per year. In the first decade of this century, the rate of deforestation was slightly lower, but still, a disturbingly high 13 million hectares were destroyed annually. As forest expansion remained stable, the global net forest loss between 2000 and 2010 was 5.2 million hectares per year.

World Forest Cover, 1990 -2010

South America and Africa are clearly the biggest area of concerns due to illegal logging and corrupt governance. Should we expect the rates of deforestation in those continents to continue "as-is"? Or is there some percentage of forested areas that can be expected to last (e.g. perhaps some countries are less corrupt)? Furthermore, if the size of forested land on N. America, Asia, and Europe remains constant or grows, how much of that is due to tree plantations?

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    $\begingroup$ Safe - non of it! There will always be someone who wants to cut a deal with a government to have parts of forests reclassified to be logged. Significant parts of the forests in the Amazon& in Indonesia have been cut down illegally. Some governments have been unable or unwilling to enforce their own laws. A more accurate question would be how much forested land has been designated as a forest that cannot be logged, now? Then there's the issue of natural forest & plantation "forest". $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Nov 21 '15 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Fred - interesting facts though. I for one cannot imagine that Asia has actually increased it's forest cover in the past 20 years ! I would have thought we would have regressed in that regard. $\endgroup$
    – gansub
    Nov 21 '15 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ I almost agree with Fred. Nearly all countries have 'preserved' forests, fully protected by law, in which illegal logging is rife. I think in particular of India, Indonesia, Philippines, and many other Pacific islands. Nearly everywhere, politicians and authorities turn a blind eye to massive clearance. Greed trumps the law every time. The only exception I can think of is the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, where forests really are protected. $\endgroup$ Nov 21 '15 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ Basically I am looking for a quantification of the "at-risk" forests and "safe" forests, but I think tree plantations could be included as part of an in-depth answer that addresses a long-term outlook. I originally wanted to ask this question as "what countries have programs to successfully manage forested lands" but I didn't think I'd get much quantification. If illegal land-clearing is common in the country, that is certaintly an "at risk" area, regardless if a program exists. If people have ideas as to how to word the question better please edit or comment. $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Nov 21 '15 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @gansub: I agree with you. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Nov 22 '15 at 4:40
  1. How much forested land is currently protected from logging/deforestation?

I doubt that could be answered with anything better than a rough guesstimate. We would first need to know how much land is OFFICIALLY/LEGALLY protected. Then we would have to subtract acreage to allow for illegal logging or general environmental destruction. There are also areas that aren't legally protected but nevertheless aren't logged simply because they're very remote, the terrain is too rugged, etc.

In addition, it's a moving target. Various governments around the world continually modify their environmental management policies and practices. A forest that's protected today might fall prey to a bribe from some giant oil company tomorrow.

  1. How much is currently at risk?

Again, that's very hard to answer. Forest destruction is an ongoing process around the world. Forests in the most remote regions are typically the safest, but they will become more vulnerable as surrounding forests are felled, new roads are built, more people move into these remote areas, etc.

Another factor to consider is war, or political corruption in general. So many governments have been destabilized (primarily by the U.S.), and so many governments are grappling with economic woes or fears of invasion. Not surprisingly, they're going to emphasize security and survival over the environment.

Of course, war itself can take a toll. Consider Vietnam, where the U.S. used Agent Orange indiscriminately. I believe the Soviets similarly wiped out much of Afghanistan's montane forests.

  1. How do tree plantations compare in overall size?

Are you asking how the land area that is devoted to tree plantations compares to the land area covered with wild forests?

Again, I don't know the answer, but please note that there are vast differences between plantations and wild forests. Plantations may be preferable to barren earth, but they don't begin to compare to "natural forests" in terms of biodiversity. Tree farms are to Nature what fast food is to cuisine.

I fear for Africa more than South America. The Amazon is obviously a cause for concern, but there is some political stability in South America, and there are environmental activists there.

In comparison, Africa appears to be lost. How many acres have been converted to genetically modified food? I've read about thousands of traditional African farmers being replaced by GMO, though there isn't much information on the subject.

Libya's destruction by NATO was an enormous blow for Africa (and the world). And for whatever it's worth, I believe Colonel Gaddafi was generally regarded as an environmentalist, at least in comparison to other African leaders. There have long been predictions that the next cold war will be fought between the U.S. and China over Africa's natural resources. In fact, the U.S. has troops stationed in just about every country in Africa, and I just read that China is building a military base there.

In summary, forest loss is a huge problem in South America, but there is at least some hope. I predict that it will be a much bigger problem in Africa in the long run.

Furthermore, if the size of forested land on N. America, Asia, and Europe remains constant or grows, how much of that is due to tree plantations?

Once again I don't have a specific answer, but I can offer a good guess: Most of it. After all, native forests will continue to shrink, while tree farms will continue to multiply.

Sorry to be so negative. I actually believe there is hope, but things aren't going to change without a massive change agent.

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    $\begingroup$ why can't remote sensing tell us whether forests are shrinking or expanding in Asia or Europe ? $\endgroup$
    – gansub
    Nov 29 '15 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ globalforestwatch.org $\endgroup$
    – gansub
    Nov 29 '15 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ While I appreciate the attempt at an answer, I feel this just points out why it is a tough question, without actually making a quantitative contribution. $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Nov 29 '15 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Well, hopefully someone can make a quantitative contribution. I'm interested in seeing some actual statistics myself. It would be nice if some authorities could get together to publish an "Annual State of the Global Forest" report. $\endgroup$ Nov 29 '15 at 16:01

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