Overview of Forest Sector

During 1940s, the forest cover rate in Lao PDR was at around 70%, and then it continuously dropped and stood to at around 40% in 2010. With the efforts of the government in reforestation and rehabilitation programs nationwide, forest cover of the country increased to 58% in 2015. On the other hand, the estimated rate of forest cover of Lao PDR made by FAO showed a higher figure than the national estimation. According to the Forest Cover Assessment 2015, forest cover in Lao PDR was 79.2% of the country’s total land area or approximately 18.7 million ha with an increasing rate of 1.3% annually between 2010 and 2015.[1]

Laos currently has about 62% of forest cover, which is a high percentage compared to many other countries. Conserving these existing forests and their biodiversity – trees that have been absorbing carbon and mitigating climate change for years – will provide continual benefits for generations, far outweighing other strategies. Commercial plantations such as Eucalyptus or Acacia plantations which are cultivated solely for wood products, pulp, paper or similar materials are usually harvested for a period of 15 to 20 years, causing the trees to release much of the carbon they have stored. However, when managed sustainably, commercial plantations can protect natural forests, provide employment for local communities and contribute to the national economy.

Climate change in Lao PDR is predicted to result in rising temperatures, longer dry seasons, and increased frequencies of natural disasters such as rainfall, storms, droughts and floods. Rainfall will become more erratic and weather events such as droughts or floods will become more extreme. Vulnerability towards climate change is high as Lao PDR depends on natural resources for its development. Some of Lao PDR’s major forms of natural resource utilization such as rain-fed rice cultivation and hydro-power generation are very vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. The northern and north-western parts of Laos are vulnerable to drought. Along the Mekong River, plains in the central and southern provinces are vulnerable to flood.

[1] FAO. 2015. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015: How are the World’s Forests are Changing?
[2] United Nations Press Release. 2017. What Does the International Climate Conference COP 23 Mean for Lao PDR? 

Forest Policy Archive

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