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Around the world

Page - November 27, 2006
Eight thousand years ago, large tracts of ancient forest covered almost half the earth's land area. Today, only one fifth of the original forests remain as large areas of ancient forest, the rest having been destroyed, degraded or fragmented by relentless human activity.

An activist looks at boreal forest destruction

Throughout the world, ancient forests are in crisis. Many of the plants and animals that live in these forests face extinction. And many of the people and cultures who depend on these forests for their way of life are also under threat. But the news is not all bad. There is a last chance to protect these forests and the life they support.

The world's ancient forests are truly diverse. They include boreal, temperate and tropical forests, coniferous and broadleaf forests, rainforests and mangroves. Together they maintain environmental systems that are essential for life on Earth. They influence weather by controlling rainfall and evaporation of water from soil. They help stabilise the world's climate by storing large amounts of carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change.

These ancient forests are home to millions of forest people who depend on them for their survival - both physically and spiritually. These forests also house around two-thirds of the world's land-based species of plants and animals. That's hundreds of thousands of different plants and animals, and literally millions of insects - their futures also depend on the ancient forests.

These magnificent ancient forests are under threat. More than 87 human cultures have been lost in Brazil alone; in the next 10 to 20 years, the world looks set to lose thousands of species of plants and animals. But there is a last chance to SAVE these forests and the people and species that depend on them.