Biodiversity benefits of reforestation and avoiding deforestation

The term biodiversity encompasses the variety of life on earth, at the genetic, species, habitat and ecosystem levels. As well as such variation, biodiversity includes abundance: the number of genes carried by individuals and populations in different places at different times. Also encompassed is the diversity of interactions between components of biodiversity such as pollination by birds and insects and predator-prey interactions.

Biodiversity has evolved over the last 3.5 billion years of the earth's 5 billion-year history. Major extinction events have occurred in the past but the diversity in the present is that with which the human species has developed (UNEP, 2007).

Much biodiversity is found in ten forested countries that contain 88.2 percent of the least disturbed primary forests (FAO, 2006: Figure 2) (see Figure 4.1). Forests not only provide timber for markets, they are also important sources of a range of non-market products such as clean drinking water, fuelwood, building materials, animal protein and medicines. Indirect benefits are provided by the protection of watersheds and biodiversity. A large proportion of the world's forests provides these benefits in combination (see Figure 4.2).

There are large areas of forest in countries in temperate regions but the greatest biodiversity is to be found in forests in the tropics; the rainforests that receive high rainfall and that dominate large areas of Central and South America, Equatorial Africa and South-east Asia being the richest (see Figure 4.3). Most of the tropical rainforests lie in developing countries where there is intense demand for land for other purposes.

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