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Extreme weather, natural disaster pose threat to forests – FAO

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Extreme weather events and natural disasters will pose an increasing threat to the world’s forests in the coming years, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.

The FAO was commenting on a new report, “Abiotic disturbances and their influence on forest health” released last week August 9, 2011 by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) which comprises 14 international organizations and secretariats.

The report shows that almost 4000 extreme weather events and natural disasters known as ‘abiotic disturbances’ such as cyclones, floods, landslides, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and forest fires occurred between 2000 and 2009 worldwide.

The CPF, according to the FAO also identified man-made events such as radioactive contamination and oil spills as endangering acts to forest reserves.

The body has therefore called upon forest managers to apply forest policies such as diversifying species, using windbreaks and mixed cropping patterns to protect forests from disasters, minimizing the risks and impacts of extreme events.

“Disturbances are expected to continue to increase in intensity, quantity and frequency…adaptive forest management involving all sectors and stakeholders is therefore essential to protect the world’s forest resources,” Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry and CPF Chair said in a statement.

Since such disturbances do not respect borders, regional or international cooperation is badly required, Mr Rojas-Briales added.

The UN body gave examples of abiotic disturbances and their impacts on forests.

“A major storm in Sweden in 2005, which uprooted or damaged trees in over 1.2 million hectares of forest; Tropical Cyclone Sidr, which hit Bangladesh in 2007 and affected almost nine million people and damaged nearly 1.5 million houses and some four million trees; and the 2010 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in central Chile, which killed more than 700 people and caused up to $30 billion in economic losses to the country.”

By Ekow Quandzie

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