Europe's forest area is expanding by half a million hectares a year, enough to cover Belgium in six years or Switzerland in eight, according to a joint report of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

Moreover, claims the report, temperate and boreal forests absorb about as much carbon every year as is released by tropical deforestation, thus slowing the speed of climate change.

The report covers the forest resources of not only Europe, but also the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union), North America, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. "It's the most comprehensive set of internationally comparable data on the temperate and boreal forests ever issued," according to Alexander Korotkov, the report's Project Manager.

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