DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, September 7, Xinhua -- The 14th World Forestry Congress (WFC) opened Monday in Durban.

The week-long conference is a platform for over 3,000 delegates from governments, the private sector, foresters, academics and the civil society to shape the policy agenda on sustainable development and the future of forests and forestry.

The Congress is an event of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the theme for this year is "Forestry and People, investing in Sustainable future". This is the first time that the congress, held every six years since 1926, is witnessed on African soil.

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People visit the 14th World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa, Sept. 7, 2015. The 14th World Forestry Congress kicked off here on Monday. (Xinhua/Zhang Chuanshi)

South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana officially opened the conference. He said forests and the forest sector continue to play a very important role in environmental services and people's lives in the world.

Zokwana also challenged other WFC member countries and organizations to carry out constantly research and development on timber quality, tree breeding and forestation relation with climate change.

Also on Monday, the FAO released the 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA2015), which shows that the state of the world's forests is better than it was.

FAO Senior Forestry Officer Kenneth MacDicken was among those monitoring how the forests are faring.

"What we've seen is a continued forest loss in the tropics, not surprisingly," he said. "But the good news is that it's happening at a rate that is half of what it was in the 1990s. So, the deforestation rate is slowing."

He said more countries were sustainably managing their forests. As of 2014, 112 countries had national forest inventories. "Countries have more knowledge of their forest resources than ever before,"said the FAO report.

However, between 1990 and 2015, there was a net loss of 129 million hectares of forest. The biggest forest loss occurred in Africa and South America.

Updated every five years, the report said while a direct impact of climate change on forests was hard to measure, indirect effects were being monitored. These included more large wildfires and destructive insects and diseases that were not killed off by milder winters.

According to FRA2015, plantations are expanding and supplying an increasing proportion of the world's wood. In the right place and managed sustainably, tree plantations can reduce the pressure to bring natural forest areas into production.

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