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Max Roser (2017) - "Forests". Published online at Retrieved from: '' [Online Resource]

I. Empirical View

I.1 Very Long-Term Perspective on Deforestation in Specific Regions

New Zealand vegetation: Pre-Polynesian (700 CE), Pre-Classical Maori (1200 CE), Pre-European (1800 CE) and Present (1974 CE) – Williams (2006)1

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

The extent of forest in central Europe, 900 CE and 1900 CE – Williams (2000)2

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

Population density, deforestation, and soil erosion associated with long-term Maya settlement on the terrestrial environment of the Peten lowlands, c. 10,000–0 BP – Williams (2006)3

Williams 2006 Deforsting the Earth figure 3.6

Easter Islands was treeless and the inhabitants in a miserable state when European discoverers got there for the first time.

I.2 Rebirth of Forests

For millennia wherever humans settled they depleted forrests. This is not the case anymore in some countries of the world. Higher yields and other factors made it possible to preserve forests and in some countries to increase the forest area. Sustainability was reached in these places.

Estimated forest volume and annual growth and drain in the United States (in billions of ft3), 1909–1977 – Williams (2006)4

1909 Zeigler1920 Greeley1933 Copeland1952 F.S.1962 F.S.1970 F.S.1977 F.S.
Stock of all standing timber545746486603648680711
Growth per annum6.7568.913.916.719.821.7
Drain: Firewood and lumber2324.314.511.8121414.2
Drain: Fire and insects±
Drain: Total252616.315.716.31818.1
Ratio: growth to drain1:3.51:4.31:1.81:1.131:0.971:0.901:0.83

Annual net growth and use of timber in the United States, 1800–2040 – Williams (2006)5

Annual net growth and use of timber in the United States, (1800–2040) – Williams (2006)

I.3 Global Forest Cover Change over the Last Centuries

Estimated deforestation by type of forest and time period, pre-1700-2000 – FAO (2012)6

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

Annual growth rate in forest area by world region, 1990-2009 – FAO (2013)7

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

I.4 The State of the World's Forest Today

An amazingly beautiful worldmap of forest extent and change (2000–2012) is published at the website of the University of Maryland here.8

World’s forest cover density (%), 2010 — FAO9


World map of forest cover change – World Development Report (2008)10

World Map of Forest Cover Change – World Development Report (2008)0

I.5 Forest cover change by country

I.6 Recent Forest Cover Change in Specific Regions

Amazon Rainforest

Map of the amazon rainforest eco-regions as delineated by the WWF – Wikipedia11


Predeforestation area of forest, cerrado, and water, and deforested and isolated and edge forest in Brazilian Amazon (in 1000 square kilometers) – Williams (2006)12

ForestCerradoWaterTotal AreaDeforestedIsolated and EdgeTotal DisturbedDeforestedIsolated and EdgeTotal DisturbedAs % Total Area
Mato Grosso527.6368.74.2900.521.126.247.347.673.7121.313.4Mato Grosso

Annual rate of legal deforestation in the Amazon (in km2 per year) 1977/88-2013 – INPE13

Annual rate of legal deforestation in the Amazon, in km2 per year (1977:88-2013) – INPE0

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)).

African Forests

Gross and net deforestation areas and annual rates measured from the sample of satellite images (areas in 1000 ha) for three regions, 1990-2000 and 2000-2010 – Mayaux et al. (2013)14

gross deforestationannual rate (%)net deforestationannual rate (%)gross deforestationannual rate (%)net deforestationannual rate (%)
Central Africa (n=173)345.9 ± 540.19285.4 ± 36.50.16187.6 ± 22.20.11181.5 ± 39.80.1Central Africa (n=173)
West Africa (n=67)278.7 ± 77.91.09233.5 ± 108.30.9182.1 ± 14.10.3570.4 ± 23.90.3West Africa (n=67)
Madagascar (n=16)75.8 ± 25.81.69728 ± 32.81.6340.5 ± 18.21.0836.4 ± 24.80.97Madagascar (n=16)
total three regions700.40.33591.90.28310.20.15288.30.14total three regions

II. 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.