By Rhett Butler   |   Venezuela, one of the ten most biodiverse countries on Earth, is home to extensive rainforests ranging from cloud forests of the coastal mountain ranges to the rainforests of the Guiana shield and Amazon basin. Venezuela has more than 21,000 species of plants, 353 mammal species, 323 reptile species, 1,400 bird species, and 288 amphibians.

Forest cover and loss in Venezuela

Using a ten percent tree cover as a threshold, forests and plantations covered nearly two-thirds of Venezuela's land mass, or about 59 million hectares, in 2012, according to researchers led by Matt Hansen (2013). Dense forests — areas with more than 50 percent tree cover — amounted to just under 54 million hectares.

The largest extent of forests in Venezuela are found in Bolivar, which accounts for about a third of the country's forests. Amazonas is second with about 30 percent of Venezuela's forest cover.

Hansen's research shows that Venezuela lost 1.25 million hectares of forest cover, or 2.1 percent, between 2001-2012.

Total forest areaDense forest areaForest gainForest lossTotal land area
>10% tree cover (ha)% total land cover>50% tree cover (ha)% total land cover2001-2012 (ha)% total forest cover2001-2012 (ha)% total forest cover(ha)
Delta Amacuro342869588.3%336954686.8%332130096.9%108750.3%3882978
Distrito Capital1720552.5%1258138.4%837248.7%1851.1%32753
Nueva Esparta1770017.6%1078210.7%728341.1%1210.7%100483

Cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in Venezuela. In the 1980s and 1990s, gold mining and logging were important causes of deforestation and forest degradation, but logging has dwindled in recent years. Gold mining still causes intense damage where it occurs, but limited to southern reaches of the country. There is potential to expand coal and bauxite mining in the country, potentially putting forests at risk.

In the mid-2000s, former president Hugo Chavez proposed a controversial pipeline that would run 5,000 miles south through the heart of the Amazon rainforest. But the project failed to get off the ground.

On paper Venezuela has protected more than a third of its land mass in its system of parks and reserves. But many of these protected areas have suffered from incursion by illegal loggers and miners.

Charts showing forest cover and loss in Venezuela

Venezuela environmental news | XML | pictures

Venezuela Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 47,713,000 ha
% of land area: 54.1%
Primary forest cover: n/a
% of land area: n/a
% total forest area: n/a
Deforestation Rates
Annual change in forest cover: -287,600 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -0.6%
Change in rate 90-00 vs 00-05: 5.9%
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in rate 90-00 vs 00-05: n/a
Forest Classification
Public: n/a
Private: n/a
Other: n/a

Production: 38.1%
Protection: n/a
Conservation: 61.9%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: n/a
None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 47,713,000 ha
Primary: n/a
Modified natural: n/a
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: n/a
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: n/a
% of total forest cover: n/a
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
- M t
Below-ground biomass: - M t
Area annually affected by

: 14,000 ha
Insects: n/a
Diseases: n/a
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 1,360
Critically endangered: 3
Endangered: 6
Vulnerable: 50
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 8121000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 21000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $43,856,000
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $43,856,000

More forest statistics for Venezuela

Suggested reading - Books

CIA-World Factbook Profile
FAO-Forestry Profile

Last updated: 23 Jul 2014