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Notice: This is only a preliminary collection of relevant material

The data and research currently presented here is a preliminary collection or relevant material. We will further develop our work on this topic in the future (to cover it in the same detail as for example our entry on World Population Growth).

If you have expertise in this area and would like to contribute, apply here to join us as a researcher.

Global forests today

In this section

Forest cover by country

This map shows the estimates of forest cover by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

By moving the slider, or through the chart view, you can explore the change in forest cover over time.

The world’s forests today

The map shows forest cover density around the world in 2010.

A detailed world map of forest extent and change (2000–2012) is published at the website of the University of Maryland here.1

World’s forest cover density (%), 2010 — FAO2

Long-term perspective on forest cover

Deforestation in New Zealand over the last centuries

The four maps show the changing vegetation in New Zealand since 700.

Over the last centuries the forest cover was substantially reduced.

New Zealand vegetation: Pre-Polynesian (700 CE), Pre-Classical Maori (1200 CE), Pre-European (1800 CE) and Present (1974 CE) – Williams (2006)3
New Zealand Vegetation- Pre-Polynesian (700 CE), Pre-Classical Maori (1200 CE), Pre-European (1800” CE) and Present (1974 CE) – Williams (2006)0

Deforestation in Europe between 900 and 1900

In the thousand years after 900 forest cover in Europe was reduced very substantially as this map shows.

The extent of forest in central Europe, 900 CE and 1900 CE – Williams (2000)4
The-extent-of-forest-in-central-Europe,-ad-900-and-ad-1900-– Williams-(2000)

Global forest cover change over the last centuries

This visualization shows long-run estimates of deforestation by type of forest.

Estimated deforestation by type of forest and time period, pre-1700-2000 – FAO (2012)5
Estimated deforestation, by type of forest and time period (pre 1700-2000) – FAO (2012)0

Changes in forest cover by world region

Since 1990 Europe has seen an increase in forests while Africa and the Americas saw forests declining.

Deforestation data is available in a special Google Project here. This is including Landsat Annual Timelapse 1984-2012 of Amazon Deforestation (it also includes data on forest cover change in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2000-2010)).

Annual growth rate in forest area by world region, 1990-2009 – FAO (2013)6
Annual growth rate in forest area, by World Region (1990-2009) – FAO (2013)

Data Sources

A very important publication by the FAO on the topic are the State of the World’s Forests that is available here.

The FAO database on Forestry is online here. It includes several datasets for countries and world regions since 1961. The dataset is very comprehensive and includes many forestry products.

FAO data – for example data on forest coverage (%) – is available through Gapminder (here). At Gapminder – where also data on primary forests, wood coverage or wood removal is available – the data can be plotted against a second variable.

World Bank
Annual data – since 1990 – data on ‘Forest area (% of land area)’ (by country) is available in the World Development Indicators (WDI) published by the World Bank (here).
Annual data – since 1990 – on ‘Forest area (sq. km)’ (by country) is available in the World Development Indicators (WDI) published by the World Bank (here).

Other Specialised Institutions
The Center for Global Development’s FORMA (or Forest Monitoring for Action) allows close tracking and analysis of global deforestation trends. It is online here.

The IIASA Global Forest Database is online here.

The Eurostat website ‘Statistics Explained’ publishes up-to-date statistical information on forestry is online here.