Three South American nations announced a joint plan Tuesday to establish protected zones in the vast Atlantic Forest as part of an effort to halt deforestation by 2020.
Speaking at the World Forestry Congress, representatives of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay said their governments are committed to achieving "net zero deforestation" - meaning their total amount of forest land would remain stable by that date.
"We plan to maintain over 1 million hectares (3,860 square miles) of forest intact, which will protect the areas from being cleared for farming or any other industrial purposes," said Gov. Maurice Closs of the Argentine province of Misiones.
The Atlantic Forest, home to the famous Iguazu falls and numerous plant and animal species, is one of the most endangered rainforests in the world. Only about 7 percent of the once 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) of forest land remains and is fast disappearing largely because of land clearing for agriculture.
During the forestry meeting's session Monday, the World Wildlife Fund urged nations to commit to "net zero" programs as a way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
Deforestation is responsible for almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the WWF and the onservation
"The most immediate way to prevent climate change is to stop deforestation," said Rodney Taylor, international forest director for the World Wildlife Fund.
Taylor said that every minute, the equivalent of 36 football fields of trees are cleared away around the globe.
The World Forestry Congress, organized by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, brings together policy makers, businesses and organizations related to the forestry industry from about 160 countries once every six years.