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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released the key findings of the Global Forest Resources Assessment, FRA 2020 on 8th May which examines the status of, and trends in, more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990– 2020.

The full report of FRA 2020, including an in-depth analysis and individual reports from the 236 countries and territories covered by the assessment, will be published in June 2020.

The main findings are presented below.

Forests cover nearly one third of land globally

The world has a total forest area of 4.06 billion hectares (ha), which is 31% of the total land area. The tropical domain has the largest proportion of the world’s forests (45 %), followed by the boreal, temperate and subtropical domains.

More than half (54 %) of the world’s forests is in only five countries – the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.

The rate of net forest loss has decreased

The rate of net forest loss declined from 7.8 million ha per year in 1990–2000 to 5.2 million ha per year in 2000–2010 and 4.7 million ha per year in 2010–2020.

The world has lost 178 million ha of forest since 1990, which is an area about the size of Libya. The rate of net forest loss decreased substantially over the period 1990–2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation and the natural expansion of forests.

Asia – highest net gain of forest area in 2010-2020

Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020 at 1.2 million ha, followed by Oceania and Europe. Nevertheless, both Europe and Asia recorded substantially lower rates of net gain in 2010–2020 than in 2000–2010.

Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 million ha, followed by South America, at 2.6 million ha.

Lower annual rate of deforestation

In the most recent five-year period (2015–2020), the annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million ha, down from 12 million ha in 2010–2015.

An estimated 420 million ha of forest has been lost worldwide through deforestation since 1990.

FAO defines deforestation as the conversion of forest to other land uses (regardless of whether it is human-induced).

Planted forests area has increased

The area of planted forests has increased by 123 million ha although the rate of increase has slowed in the last ten years. Ninety-three percent (3.75 billion ha) of the forest area worldwide is composed of naturally regenerating forests and 7 % (290 million ha) is planted.

Forest in protected areas has increased

There is an estimated 726 million ha of forest in protected areas worldwide. Of the six major world regions, South America has the highest share of forests in protected areas, at 31% followed by Africa (27%) and Asia (25%).

The area of forest in protected areas globally has increased by 191 million ha since 1990, but the rate of annual increase slowed in 2010–2020.

The world has at least 1 billion ha of primary forest

The world still has at least 1.11 billion ha of primary forest. The area of primary forest has decreased by 81 million ha since 1990, but the rate of loss more than halved in 2010–2020 compared with the previous decade.

Primary forest – is composed of native species in which there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes have not been significantly disturbed. Combined, three countries – Brazil, Canada and the Russian Federation – host more than half (61 %) of the world’s primary forest.

World’s forests are mainly public owned

73% of the world’s forests is under public ownership. 22 % is privately owned, and the ownership of the remainder is categorized as either “unknown” or “other” (the latter mainly comprising forests where ownership is disputed or in transition).

More than 50% of forests in Asia have management plans

Most of the forests in Europe and more than 50% in Asia have management plans; on the other hand, management plans exist for less than 25 percent of forests in Africa and less than 20 percent in South America. The area of forest under management plans is increasing in all regions – globally, it has increased by 233 million ha since 2000, reaching 2.05 billion ha in 2020.

By Belvinder Sron / DCEO 


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