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Tropical forests are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, and 44% of the global forest coverage can be found in tropical countries (FAO 2015), a total of roughly 17,000 million hectares. Tropical rainforests are the home of 50 million indigenous peoples (Rainforest Foundation) and ICRAF calculated that tropical forests are the basis of the livelihoods of some 800 million forest-dependent people. Tropical forests are also extremely important for biodiversity: about 50% of all terrestrial species live in tropical forests (VIA 2017).
With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement, tropical forests have gained interest for their role in climate change mitigation. 15 of the 25 hotspots at global scale are tropical forests.
The importance to protect and sustainably manage tropical forests can hardly be underestimated. Nevertheless, they are increasingly under threat. From 2010 to 2015, the tropical forest area declined at a rate of 5.5 M ha per year, and only 58% of the tropical forests in the 1990s is left.
Roughly 18 million hectares of tropical and subtropical forest are currently FSC certified, representing 13 % of the total global area certified to the FSC Principles and Criteria. Of this total, 7% is situated in tropical natural forest and 6% in planted forest in tropical countries. However, the number of certificates paints a different picture: one in four certificates lies in the tropics. The top three countries with the highest total area are Brazil, Bolivia and the Republic of Congo.
The responsible management of tropical forests and the use of products coming from FSC certified tropical forests needs special attention. Exchange of views and experience is needed between representatives and specialists from a wide variety of stakeholders and FSC certified forest operations and concerned with developing forest management in natural tropical forests in a practical way.
Especially the EU Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (EU STTC) aims to boost the market for sustainably produced tropical timber. FSC works in close collaboration with STTC and also with ATIBT which is concentrating more on African tropical timbers.
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