- The total forest area of the world is about 4 billion hectares, which represents nearly 30 percent of the Earth’s landmass. Approximately 56 percent of these forests are located in tropical and subtropical areas.
- Forest cover is unevenly distributed. Only seven countries possess about 60 percent of it, 25 countries around 82 percent and 170 countries share the remaining 18 percent.
- Planted forests account for approximately 3.8 percent of total forest area, or 140 million hectares.
- Net global forest loss is estimated to be about 7.3 million hectares per year for the period 2000–2005. This represents a decrease from the period 1990–2000, for which the average deforestation rate was 8.9 million hectares per year.
- The highest amounts of deforestation occurred in South America, with 4.3 million hectares per year, followed by Africa with four million hectares per year.
Forests and Livelihoods
- More than one billion people rely heavily on forests for their livelihoods. 3
- More than two billion people, a third of the world’s population, use biomass fuels, mainly firewood, to cook and to heat their homes.
- Hundreds of millions of people rely on traditional medicines harvested from forests. 4
- In some 60 developing countries, hunting and fishing on forested land supplies more than a fifth of protein requirements. 5
Forests and the Economy6
- In 2003, the international trade in sawn wood, pulp, paper and boards amounted to almost US $ 150 billion, or just over 2 percent of world trade. The developed world accounted for two-thirds of this production and consumption.
- In many developing countries, forest-based enterprises provide at least one third of all rural non-farm employment and generate income through the sale of wood products.
- The value of the trade in non-timber forest products has been estimated at US $ 11 billion. These products include pharmaceutical plants, mushrooms, nuts, syrups and cork.
Forests and Climate Change7
- It is estimated that 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon are released annually due to land use change. The major portion is from tropical deforestation.
- This represents about 20 percent of current global carbon emissions, which is greater than the percentage emitted by the global transport sector with its intensive use of fossil fuels.
1 Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) 2007 State of the World’s Forests 2007,
2 FAO 2009 State of the World’s Forests 2009, FAO, Rome.
3 World Bank 2004 Sustaining Forests: A Development Strategy, Washington.
4 UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2009 Indicators of Sustainable Development
(1 June 2009).
5 Mery, G., Alfaro, R., Kanninen, M. and Lobovikov, M. (eds.) 2005 Forests in the Global
Balance – Changing Paradigms, IUFRO World Series 17. International Union of Forest Research
Organisations (IUFRO), Helsinki.
6 World Bank 2004 Sustaining Forests: A Development Strategy, Washington D.C.
7 IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Sciences Basis, http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf (1 June 2009).