Actions to preserve world's forest ecosystems should be accelerated: UN agency

Actions to preserve world's forest ecosystems should be accelerated: UN agency

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As experts gear up to attend an international meeting in Montreal next week on threats facing the world's forests, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today urged participants to address the poverty that drives people to fell trees.

"Despite their importance, forests across many parts of the globe and in particular in developing countries continue to be felled and cleared at an alarming rate," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer in a statement issued in Nairobi in advance of the meeting of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. "It is my sincere hope that humankind can tackle the root causes of this, which, in many countries, lie in poverty and the desperate circumstances that billions of people across the globe find themselves in."

Hamdallah Zedan, the Convention's Executive Secretary, said natural forests harboured the greatest variety of animal, microbial and plant species of any terrestrial ecosystem. "Conserving and sustainably using these invaluable ecosystems is a major goal of the Convention's work programme," he said. "Research is still needed, but it is now time to accelerate concrete action to preserve the world's forests."

The Montreal meeting of the Convention's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, to be held from 12 to 16 November, will provide input to ministers and diplomats attending next year's sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, which will be held at The Hague.

This month's meeting, which will consider the current status of forest biodiversity and major trends and threats, will identify solutions that could be implemented locally, nationally, or globally. Participants will also address the need to expand the Convention's current forests work programme from research to practical action.

The Conference in Montreal will discuss three specific threats to forest biological diversity - climate change, human-induced uncontrolled forest fires, and the impact of unsustainable harvesting of non-timber forest resources, including in particular bushmeat and living biological resources. Delegates will try to identify how to manage and reduce these threats.