Quick Forest Facts


Forests cover 31 percent of the world's land surface, just over 4 billion hectares. (One hectare = 2.47 acres.) This is down from the pre-industrial area of 5.9 billion hectares.

Amazon Rainforest 2.2 Million Square Miles

The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world. It covers approximately 2.2 million square miles.

Largest Land Biome

Taiga, generally referred to in North America as boreal forest or snow forest, is a biome characterized by coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces, and larches. The taiga or boreal forest has been called the world's largest land biome

Since 1970 Forest Population have DECLINED 53%

Did you drink water, eat a piece of fruit, or take a deep breath today? You have forests to thank for all of those things.

Forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75 percent of the world’s accessible fresh water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs and act as natural filters for our air.

Forests and trees, celebrated on March 21, the International Day of Forests, are a cornerstone of addressing climate change and achieving sustainable development.

Forests are some of the most vital storehouses of carbon on our planet. However, when forests are cleared to make way for agriculture or infrastructure, they emit large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change.

At the same time, standing forests make a crucial contribution to addressing the impacts of climate change not only by absorbing greenhouse gases but also by building more resilient landscapes through water flow regulation, soil improvement and maintenance for agriculture, protection of coastal communities from extreme events and sea level rise, and migratory corridors for plant and animal species.

Following the Paris Agreement at COP21, a number of countries have shown strong commitment in their climate action plans (known as NDCs, or Nationally Determined Contributions) on adaptation measures and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, land use change and agriculture. Together these sectors account for nearly a quarter of global emissions, but represent a much greater share of emissions in many developing countries.

These national plans represent trillions of dollars of potential country demand for forest and climate-relevant investments. To meet the goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, these commitments will need to be translated into investments, including in resilient forest and landscape initiatives.

Improving the management of forests provides opportunities for reducing current and future vulnerability to climate change, while advancing both mitigation and adaptation objectives.

Source: WorldBank

Can Planting Trees Save the Environment?

In the Bonn Challenge, an effort led by Germany and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 10 percent of countries have committed to planting more trees then feasible, while 43 percent aren't pulling their weight, by committing to far less than restorable area that exists, according to the Science study. That puts the Bonn Challenge's ultimate goal to plant 3.5 million hectares of trees by 2030 at risk.

It’s a seductively simple idea, that we can stop climate change just by filling in all these landscapes with trees. But there’s a lot more to it if we want to plant trees right.

At the behest of environmentalists, we've already been planting trees for a long time. We have more trees on the planet today than 30 years ago. In the past 20 years, China has restored more than 108,000 square miles of forests. But 45 percent of commitments under the Bonn challenge are monoculture plantations, according to an April report in Nature. That means we're planting vast acres of the same tree species, often fast-growing varieties like eucalyptus that can be harvested for paper. Not only do these forests not store as much carbon as natural forests, they don't foster good habitat for native species—a blow to biodiversity.

Bastin is doing his part to correct our wayward tree-planting tendencies, and he’s finding ways to bring others along with him. “Restoring the ecosystem needs to be done by respecting the local composition of species and the local biodiversity,” he says. Government officials, NGO leaders, and others can use his maps to see how much tree canopy a given area can support, but they still need to identify the best trees to plant. Toward that end, Bastin says he’s helping build a database of common species for each degraded area.

Pedro Brancalion is a forestry professor at the University of São Paulo, and the leader author of another new study, published Wednesday in Science Advances. Where Bastin and his colleagues focused on carbon storage, Brancalion and his co-authors detail other reasons for valuing forests. The new methods also consider the unique costs of rainforest restoration, like how much potential profit will be lost by returning an area from agriculture back to its natural state. With a focus on tropical rainforests, it identified "hotspots" in 15 countries—over 100 million hectares of land in Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia—and proposed strategies for their restoration.

A typical hotspot has these three qualities: the existing forest is heavily

degraded or gone, it’s home to many species, and it’s close to where people live. Not only can these areas store carbon and provide habitat, healthy forests clear water of sediments and pollutants, a boon to humans.

To identify these locations, the scientists overlaid data on the potential for trees to benefit biodiversity, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, and water security. They picked out the 10 percent of areas with the most overlap in benefits and lowest costs associated with restoring forests. “The opportunity for restoration is heterogeneously distributed over space,” says Brancalion. “There needs to be a knowledge basis for supporting these initiatives, and that’s what we tried to do.”

Of course, just having a tool that lets you assess all the benefits of trees doesn’t directly translate to trees being planted. “We basically have to transform [forest restoration] into a more economically viable activity,” says Brancalion.

To that end, he’s investigated some solutions. In a study in Brazil, he found that if landowners can restore a plot of land with a mix of native trees and eucalyptus, then the money they make from eucalyptus timber would offset much of the costs of restoration. He adds that if there was a way to pay landowners for providing ecosystem services—carbon storage, clean water and air—that could help change current incentives, too. Restoring natural forests, then, is part finding creative ways to make money off restored land and part changing how we value restoration by recognizing the tangible benefits that these ecosystems provide.

It's a daunting task, but it will only get more challenging as the climate warms. As the Science study shows, climate change will scale back the potential area for trees. But we need to move carefully if we're to realize the intended benefits. It's not just about planting trees, but restoring actual forests.