Ambitious planting programmes in Asia and the United States have helped slow the global rate of deforestation but farmers are still cutting trees to clear land at an alarmingly high rate, a U.N. survey released on Thursday shows.

Forests absorb and store greenhouse gases so deforestation can exacerbate mean the effects of climate change, said Mette Loyche Wilkie, coordinator of the assessment by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Eduardo Rojas, assistant director-general for forestry, said the study of the last decade showed the first decrease in global deforestation since experts began tracking the phenomenon.

Planting programmes, notably in China, India and Vietnam, helped dramatically slow the rate of forest loss, from 8.3 million hectares a year in the 1990s, to 5.2 million hectares per year from 2000 to 2010, said forestry experts presenting the study at the Rome headquarters of the U.N. agency.

But South America overall lost four million hectares annually over the last decade, and Africa 3.4 million hectares yearly. Severe drought in Australia since 2000 has contributed to forest loss, the report said.

Keywords: treesforests

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