FOREST AREA DESIGNATED FOR PROTECTIVE PURPOSES
This variable indicates to what extent forest areas have been set aside for protective purposes, either by legal prescription or by decision of the landowner or manager. Forest designation is reported in two ways: ‘primary function’ and ‘total area with function’. Forest areas with a specific, designated function considered to be significantly more important than other functions are reported as ‘primary function’.
All forest areas with a designated function (not necessarily primary) are reported under ‘total area with function’. As mentioned previously, it is important to stress that the concept of ‘protective function’ goes beyond the protected area definition, because forests and other wooded land can have a protective function although outside protected areas.
Of 229 country reports, 172 contained information on designated primary functions of forests, together accounting for 95 percent of the world’s forest area (Figure 6.2). Of these, only 134 reported that they had areas specifically designated for protective purposes, while several countries reported that they had insufficient information on this specific category or they included such areas as part of the category ‘multiple purpose’
In 2005 a total of 85 countries, representing 46.6 percent of the world’s forest area, reported data on total area of forests with a function of protection (not necessarily primary) (Figure 6.3). Some countries, for example Japan, stated that all forests are expected to perform multiple functions. Such countries may not have designated any land as having a primary function of protection: the entire forest area is expected to have protective, productive and possibly other functions.
Results show an improvement in the overall reporting of countries over the past 15 years. There is a clear prevalence of Asian countries among those reporting data for all three years, followed by European countries.
The total extent of forests with protection as their primary function (Table 6.2) was estimated in 2005 at 348 million hectares, equivalent to 9 percent of total forest area. Asia has the highest proportion of forests with a primary function of protection (24 percent), followed by South America (11 percent) and Europe (9 percent). The figures for Western and Central Africa are quite low. This may be due to the fact that only a few countries in this subregion have reported on the protective function of forests.
The relatively small proportion of forests with protection as the primary function reported in North and Central America (0.5 percent) is due to lack of information on protection as a primary function from Canada and the United States, which have included those areas in the multiple purpose category, identifying that as the primary function. This affects the overall analysis, given the large forest area in these two countries. A similar explanation is provided for the very low figure for Oceania: Australia does not have a classification system that can directly report on the designated function classes used by FRA, and so has included areas with protective functions in the multiple purpose category.
It is also useful to consider the reporting of data on the total area of forest for which a specific function of protection has been designated, regardless of whether it is primary or not. Globally, a total forest area of 1 190 million hectares was identified as having a protective function in 2005 (Table 6.3). North America has the highest proportion of forests with a protective function, followed by Oceania and Asia.
Twenty-three countries reported that all their forests had protection as one of the designated functions. These countries are Afghanistan, American Samoa, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Canada, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Georgia, Guadeloupe, India, Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, New Zealand, Singapore, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Viet Nam and Wallis and Futuna Islands.
The results of the trend analysis, based on those countries that provided information for all three reporting years (1990, 2000 and 2005), show an overall increase in the area of forests with protection as their primary function, from 8 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2005 (Table 6.4 and Figure 6.4). Similarly, there has been an increase in the proportion of the world’s forests with protection as one of the designated functions (not necessarily the primary one) from 61 percent in 1990 to 65 percent in 2005 – or an increase of 58 million hectares in the 80 reporting countries providing information for all years.