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The existence of humanity is intricately connected to woods. Numerous livelihoods rely on forested regions, which have crucial functions in sequestering carbon, supplying food and water, and maintaining biodiversity. Nevertheless, the processes of deforestation, degradation, and fragmentation are causing a reduction in forest areas, while the illicit practice of logging and the associated corruption are eroding tax revenue and fueling conflicts. The worldwide commitment to cease and undo deforestation by 2030, announced at COP26 in late 2021, is now increasingly imperative.



Forests, covering 30% of Earth's land area, are biodiversity powerhouses, sheltering over 80% of terrestrial species. The richest biodiversity is in tropical forests, notably in the Amazon, Congo basin, and Southeast Asia's rainforests, which have the highest species richness per unit area. Unique forests, often on isolated islands or with varied topography, are hotspots for endemic species that exist only in those niches. Disruption of these ecosystems could spell extinction for dependent species. Regions like Madagascar, the Hindu Kush-Himalayan corridor, and Borneo's highlands are particularly rich in biodiversity and endemism. Despite this, deforestation persists, with areas in Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra being converted into palm oil plantations, threatening the existence of tigers, elephants, and orangutans.

Data on biodiversity-rich and threatened areas helps prioritize conservation resources and strategies. Protecting intact ecosystems and restoring modified high-biodiversity areas is key. Initiatives include the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Aichi Targets, and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Organizations like The Consumer Goods Forum and Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 aim for zero net deforestation by 2020, focusing on commodities like beef and palm oil, significant deforestation drivers in tropical forests.

Forest Communities

The lives of forest communities and Indigenous Peoples are intertwined with their environment. Areas with strong community land rights see less deforestation. However, few governments have enacted laws to protect these rights, leading to land expropriation by governments and businesses. As Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 reports, Indigenous Peoples and local communities legally own less than one-third of forests in low- and middle-income countries. The World Resources Institute's 2014 report "Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change" suggests that legal recognition of community land rights covers at least 513 million hectares, a fraction of forests globally. Yet, communities manage more forests through customary rights, unrecognized by governments. These community-managed forests face immense deforestation pressure.

Lack of legal rights leaves communities' forests vulnerable to destruction. In Indonesia, significant CO2 emissions from deforestation are partly due to weak legal rights for forest communities. Studies show that community-managed forests deliver better community benefits and carbon retention. Missing the opportunity to improve land rights for Indigenous Peoples and local communities risks overlooking a crucial climate change solution. The 2017 Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020 report underscores a global consensus on enhancing land tenure security. By 2030, UN member states must ensure equal land ownership rights, as pledged in the Sustainable Development Goals and supported by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Some nations have seen successful legal changes recognizing land rights, while others face public protests demanding land rights recognition.

Forestry and Forest Products

The global forestry industry, with revenues exceeding $60 trillion, is under pressure from rising demand driven by population growth and higher living standards. While sustainable initiatives like Ethiopia's mass tree-planting campaign protect resources, unsustainable practices like illegal logging deplete forests, diminish biodiversity, and increase greenhouse gases. Primary forest logging often leads to further deforestation. Adherence to existing legislation could protect vast forest areas in Brazil and Indonesia, according to the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020. Illegal logging, intertwined with crimes like trafficking and human rights abuses, robs governments of revenue and harms the environment.

Countries have taken measures to curb illegal timber imports, prompting companies to scrutinize their supply chains. Collaborative efforts and certification systems are combating illegal logging, supporting government policies and private sector engagement to prevent illegal timber use and establish independent monitoring systems. Sustainable forest management involves forest certification and tree plantations, which must not replace natural forests.

Deforestation and Climate Change

Tropical deforestation contributes to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, threatening climate regulation, livelihoods, and biodiversity. Historically, forests spanned 50% of Earth's land but have been halved, with the remainder degraded or fragmented. Deforestation in tropical countries is often for agriculture, producing commodities like palm oil, soy, and beef. The New York Declaration on Forests and the Consumer Goods Forum aim to halt forest loss. The UNFCCC's REDD+ program and the Paris Agreement recognize forests in climate strategies, with 82% of tropical countries including land use in their climate goals. The Nature Conservancy argues that improved land management could meet 30% of climate mitigation needs. Efforts to reduce deforestation in countries like Brazil and Indonesia are crucial, but 2016 saw a peak in tree cover loss. Vigilance from governments, businesses, and NGOs is essential to combat deforestation.

Commodities and Supply Chains

About half of tropical deforestation is due to four commodities: beef, palm oil, paper, and soy, with demand growth expected from emerging markets. Ambitious goals by public-private collaborations aim to reduce deforestation, but understanding supply chain risks is crucial. Transparency in supply chains, monitoring systems, and forest change data can help ensure adherence to deforestation commitments. Certification systems and moratoriums have shown efficacy, but sector-wide bans are challenging. Tailored approaches and collaborations, like regional sustainable palm oil commitments, are necessary for progress.

Forest Landscape Restoration

Forest landscapes, capable of restoration on a scale larger than twice China's land area, offer economic, disaster mitigation, and ecological benefits. Restoration improves ecosystem services and human well-being, offering a lucrative investment opportunity. However, additional global investment is needed to fully realize restoration's potential in employment, poverty reduction, and climate mitigation. International commitments aim to restore millions of hectares by 2030, supported by regional initiatives.

Emerging Technologies

Technology is revolutionizing forest monitoring, with satellite observation and AI enabling real-time tracking of forest changes. Improved satellite data and algorithms allow for precise change detection, aiding forest management. Parallel processing and data visualization advancements facilitate global monitoring and rapid response to illegal activities. Emerging technologies, including tracking systems and species identification tools, are enhancing supply chain accountability. Open data policies and high-resolution satellite imagery from public and private sources support innovation in forest monitoring.

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