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Journey to Planet Earth
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Plan B: Mobilizing to Save CivilizationState of the Planet's OceansState of the Ocean's AnimalsState of the Planet's WildlifeState of the PlanetFuture ConditionalHot ZonesSeas of GrassOn the BrinkLand of Plenty, Land of WantUrban ExplosionRivers of Destiny
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Forest Ecosystems

The vast majority of the world's forests are no more than small or highly disturbed pieces of the fully functioning ecosystems they once were.

In contrast, the world's frontier forests — large, ecologically intact, and relatively undisturbed natural forests — are likely to survive indefinitely without human intervention.

  • Forests cover about a quarter of the world's land surface, excluding Greenland and Antarctica. Global forest cover has been reduced by 20 percent since pre-agricultural times, and possibly as much as 50 percent.

  • Forest area has increased slightly since 1980 in industrial countries, but has declined by almost 10 percent in developing countries. Tropical deforestation probably exceeds 130,000 square kilometers a year.

  • Less than 40 percent of forests globally are relatively undisturbed by human action. The great majority of forests in the industrial countries, except Canada and Russia, are reported to be in "semi-natural" condition or converted to plantations.

  • Many developing countries today rely on timber for export earnings. At the same time, millions of people in tropical countries still depend on forests to meet their every need.

  • The greatest threats to forest extent and condition today are conversion to other forms of land use and fragmentation by agriculture, logging, and road construction. Logging and mining roads appear to lead the way in opening up intact forest to pioneer settlement and increases in hunting, poaching, fires, and exposure of flora and fauna to pest outbreaks and invasive species.

Source: World Resources 2000-2001

In Rivers Of Destiny, journey to four major river systems of the world to investigate environmental problems facing those whose lives depend upon the health of their river. Read the full description of this program or watch a video clip.

In On the Brink, examine how severe environmental problems can lead to political crises and increased hostilities around the world. Read the full description of this program or watch a video clip.

In Hot Zones, see how the increased spread of infectious diseases has altered global and local ecosystems. Read the full description of this program or watch a video clip.

Read Stories of Hope from the Journey to Planet Earth series focusing on forest ecosystems:


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Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization | State of the Planet's Oceans | State of the Ocean's Animals
State of the Planet's Wildlife | The State of the Planet | Future Conditional | On the Brink | Hot Zones
Seas of Grass | Land of Plenty, Land of Want | Urban Explosion | Rivers of Destiny

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