ROME, May 22 (Xinhua) -- The world's forests continue to be cut down at "alarming rates," the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) said in its State of the World's Forests 2020 report released Friday.
The 188-page report, which caps a decade of studies on biodiversity under the oversight of the United Nations, examines the contributions of forests and of the populations that use and manage them, with an eye toward forest conservation.
According to the report, forests occupy less than a third of the world's land, but they account for 80 percent of all amphibian species, 75 of bird species, 68 percent of mammal species, and around 60 percent of all vascular plant species. But that biodiversity is at risk, the report said.
"Deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contributes significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity," the FAO report said.
The report added that over the last 30 years at least 420 million hectares of forests have been lost to land-use changes, mostly to agricultural development, or in some cases for the production of wood. The lost forest land is roughly the equivalent to the size of the north African country of Libya, FAO said.
The news is not all bad, however. The report said the rate of deforestation has slowed in recent years, from around 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s to 10 million hectares per year over the last five years.
FAO headed the production of the report in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program. Rome-based FAO is headed by Qu Dongyu, a former vice-minister of China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.