BUENOS AIRES: The equivalent of 36 football fields are being stripped from the world's forests each minute, the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said in a statement released here on Thursday.

The group, presenting its figures during a UN-organized World Forestry Congress held in the Argentine capital, called for "net deforestation of zero" by 2020.

Rodney Taylor, in charge of the WWF's forestry program, said the call underlined the "urgency" of confronting deforestation threats "to maintain the planet's health."

The appeal was not a call for deforestation to be stopped completely, but rather that the devastation of forests be compensated with forest renewal initiatives.

According to the WWF, the pace of deforestation "generates around 20 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases."

In Argentina, the menace was seen with massive eradication of forests in the central and north of the country to make way for lucrative soja crops.

The country has only 30 percent of its original forests, according to a document presented by five environmental groups including Greenpeace and Argentina's Forestry Life Foundation.

The World Forestry Congress is to run to Friday.

It gathers 3,500 delegates from 160 countries whose conclusions are to provide some groundwork for a UN climate change summit to be held in Copenhagen next month.

The summit is expected to see rich countries set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Taylor said he expected those goals would aim for a 40 percent reduction by 2020, and financing of 160 billion dollars to help developing countries cut their emissions by 30 percent.