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Fact sheet

Sausage tree (Kigelia africana) (© Michael Welling)

Fact sheet: forests worldwide

  • Forests cover 31% of the earth’s surface. The forest area amounts to just over 4 billion hectares, of which 36% are primary forests, meaning that they are without visible human influence.

  • Roughly half of these forests are located in regions with a high percentage of tropical forests: in Central and South America, Africa, South-East Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean (FAO)
  • Tropical forests are rated to be the ecosystems with the highest biodiversity worldwide. The loss and fragmentation of the remaining forests is seen as one of the highest threats to biological diversity (Nature 489, 290–294, 2012).

  • In the previous decade (2000-2012) the deforestation worldwide amounted to 13 million hectares annually. This corresponds to the combined surface of Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg and the Saarland. 60% of the deforestation worldwide occurs in the tropics and subtropics. In comparison to the previous decade, the rate of deforestation has slowed (FAO).

  • 12% of the CO² emissions directly caused by humans worldwide originate from forests and can often be attributed to deforestation.
  • 80% of the worldwide deforestation can be attributed to conversion of forests into agricultural land. 70 % of forest degradation in Latin America and South-East Asia is caused by commercial and often unsustainable timber exploitation. In Africa, the use of firewood plays the most dominant role. Other important contributing factors are uncontrolled fire and agricultural usage (Kissinger).

  • Around 8 Million hectares are reforested annually, mostly by plantations or natural reforestation of unused areas. That corresponds to the surface area of Bavaria. The value of the wood used worldwide is estimated to be around 100 billion USD (FAO).

  • The value of the registered non-wood products such as foods and fodder (among others) amounts to 18.5 billion USD. However, there is no information available from many countries. Forests create 10 million jobs. Indirect employment created by forests worldwide is not measureable.
Primary forest in Kenia (© Michael Welling)