Forests shrinking at alarming rate
Fires a persistent problem
October 8, 1997
Web posted at: 5:09 p.m. EDT (2109 GMT)
From Correspondent Margaret Lowrie
LONDON (CNN) -- Ninety percent of the world's species are
found in forests. But almost everywhere around the globe,
trees are disappearing.
In Brazil's Amazon rain forest, for example, this year's dry
spell is resulting in more fires than ever before. And in
Indonesia, out-of-control fires have blanketed the region
with an unhealthy haze.
There also are other culprits, according to the World
Wildlife Fund for Nature: ignorance, greed, questionable
agricultural and forestry practices, and inappropriate land
All are causes for international concern, says the
organization's Francis Sullivan.
"We like to think of the Amazon as the global air
conditioner. It cools and cleans the planet and rejuvenates
oxygen levels in the atmosphere," he told CNN.
"With these massive fires, we're seeing large areas
destroyed. They'll never properly recover. This, I believe,
is folly for humans on this planet."
Some wildlife -- certain birds and monkeys -- are being
pushed to the brink of extinction.
"What we're looking at is 6,000 to 8,000 years of human
evolution, and during that time we've actually stripped away
a full two-thirds of the forests that were existing before
then. So we're looking at an enormous, devastating problem,"
Forests disappearing fastest in Asia
According to the WWF, deforestation is most rapid in Asia,
where 88 percent of the forests are gone.
Pakistan and Thailand, for example, lose 4 percent to
5 percent of their forests every year, and may be completely
denuded in 15 years, creating semidesert conditions.
The situation is similar in Nigeria and Ivory Coast in
Africa, and in the Latin American nations of Paraguay and
"These are the countries which really show what the world is
going to be like in 10 or 15 years," Sullivan warns.
"It's a chilling situation with terrible poverty, terrible
soil erosion, completely unstable agriculture, widespread
flooding and, of course, a terrible impact on wildlife
Heavily forested nations such as the United States, Russia
and Brazil are among the worst offenders, he says. And
Europe, which has lost 62 percent of its forests, protects
only 2 percent of what remains.
Nations must preserve or restore at least 10 percent of their
native woodland before it disappears completely, according to
the environmental group.