World's Forests Continue to Shrink

Bo Normander | Feb 23, 2011

The world’s forests shrank by 1.3 percent or 520,000 square kilometers from 2000 to 2010—an area roughly the size of France. i(See Figure 1.) In total, forests now occupy 40.3 million square kilometers—31 percent of Earth’s land surface. ii  Deforestation, mainly the conversion of forests to agricultural land, continues at a high rate in many countries. In addition, the extension of built-up areas and transport networks drives the changes in global land use.

According to the latest report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the net loss of forests has decreased from around 83,000 square kilometers (0.20 percent) a year in the 1990s to 52,000 square kilometers (0.13 percent) a year in the first decade of this century. iii  Despite the relative slowdown in the global loss of forest, however, deforestation remains a great challenge in a number of countries and regions.

Included in the definition of forests are all types of wooded areas—tropical, temperate, and boreal, and ranging from untouched primary forests to highly productive plantations. The statistics reported by FAO are based on surveys filled in by national authorities in all U.N. member countries.


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