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Abstract

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.

"Understanding the status and changes of dryland forests, tree cover and land use is vital to evaluate the impact of climate change and human activities, the results of adaptation and mitigation measures and progress towards meeting regional targets for land degradation neutrality," says Hiroto Mitsugi, FAO Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department.

Drylands cover about 41 percent of the Earth’s land surface and are home to 2 billion people, the majority of whom depend on forests and other wooded lands, grasslands and trees on farms for income and to meet basic needs. Yet surprising little is known about such ecosystems in drylands, despite widespread recognition of the need to restore drylands to cope with the effects of drought, desertification, land degradation and climate change. This document presents preliminary results of the first global assessment of trees, forests and land use in drylands. It reports, among other things, that the global drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forest, which is more than one-quarter of the global forest area. There are also about 13.5 billion trees outside forests in drylands. More than 200 experts with knowledge of the land and land uses in specific dryland regions conducted the assessment, using freely available satellite imagery and a newly developed survey methodology. The pioneering study by FAO and many partners will be fully reported later in 2016.