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Trees, forests and land use in drylands: the first global assessment

FAO offers novel assessment of trees and forests in the world’s drylands. Geospatial data and global network of partnerships produces new insights on more than 40 percent of the earth’s surface.

More than a quarter of the world's forest area is located in drylands, and trees are present on almost a third of the world's dryland regions, according to Trees, forests and land use in drylands: The first global assessment, launched by FAO today at the High-Level Meeting on Forests at the U.N. COP25 climate summit.

The results "demonstrate that drylands are not wastelands, but productive landscapes with considerable economic potential and environmental value."

The report, which includes large amounts of data on global and regional land use and forest cover, represents FAO's delivery of a promised "collective product" on the status of drylands around the world. The assessment complements FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessments but differs in that its primary data are developed through visual interpretation of freely available satellite images in a global team effort using FAO's Open Foris Collect Earth tool.

Drylands cover 41 percent of the Earth's land surface. This publication presents the results of the first global assessment of trees, forests and land use in these lands. The assessment breaks new methodological ground: it relies on the visual interpreation of freely available satellite images, carried out by more than 200 experts in a series of regional workshops.

Drylands are home to an estimated 2 billion people, half the world's livestock, and more than a third of global biodiversity hotspots, and provide critical migration points for birds. Their ecosystems are vulnerable to water shortage, drought, desertification, land degradation and climate change impacts.The world's drylands are expected to expand by 10 to 23 percent by the end of the 21st century, with dangerous ramifications for food security, livelihoods and human welfare.

Globally, about 18 percent of drylands are forest, just over half of which have canopy density above 70 percent, while barren land accounts for 28 percent, grassland 25 percent and cropland 14 percent. Trees are also present on drylands outside of forests, notably in Asia and Europe, and all told there are trees on some 2 billion hectares of drylands.

For each region, the report summarizes the distribution of forests, other wooded land and other land uses including grasslands, croplands, built-up areas and barren land, across all drylands and by aridity zone. It also estimates tree canopy cover, shrub cover, forest type and presence of trees outside forest. Indicatng that the global drylands contain more than one-quarter of the world's forest area, and that trees are present on 31 percent of the world's dryland area, the report provides a baseline for future monitoring and will support countries in their efforts to identify appropriate investments for the restoration and sustainable management of drylands.

Trees, forests and land use in drylands: the first global assessment

See the visual presentation of the report here : Hidden in plain sight Trees, forests and land use in drylands. The first global assessment

Further reading:

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