Thinking beyond the canopy

Key facts about forests

    Forest cover1
  • 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.
    Forest loss2
  • 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 4 million hectares per year.
    Forests and livelihoods
  • More than 1 billion people rely heavily on forests for their livelihoods.3
  • More than 2 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.

Sources

Sources

[1] Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) 2007. State of the World’s Forests 2007, FAO, Rome.
[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 (1 June 2009).