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Deforestation Estimates

What is the global deforestation rate? What is the deforestation rate in South America? Which region loses the most forest each year?

With the advent of satellites, these questions seem like they should be easy to answer. Yet, estimates of deforestation remain variable depending on a number of factors, including the definition of what constitutes forest, the scale, and the methodology used. Below are some recent estimates on deforestation at various scales and for various forest types. The source of each estimate is also listed.

Please check back for updates.

Also you might find these tools useful: How much forest is there?

Before we get to deforestation, it's important to first establish how much forest cover exists on planet Earth.

Global forest cover (FAO 2010) [related story]
RegionForest cover (M ha)% of land cover% change since 2000
Africa674.41923-10
Asia592.512193
Europe1005.001452
North and Central America705.393330
Oceania191.38423-4
South America864.35149-9
World403331-3


Estimates of World Forest Cover
ForestForest cover (M ha)yearSource
Global36902010FAO 2011
Global39522007CIFOR 2012
Global40332010FAO 2010 (old)


Types of Forest Worldwide
Forest typeForest cover (M ha)% of forest coveryearSource
Tropical1623.6442010FAO 2011
Boreal1254.6342010FAO 2011
Temperate479.7132010FAO 2011
Sub-tropical332.192010FAO 2011


Distribution of global forest area (2005) by region
Map of the six regions used in this survey AND Distribution of global forest area (2005) by region. Chart from the UN FAO's Global forest land-use change from 1990 to 2005: Initial results from a global remote sensing survey.

Distribution of global forest area (2005) by
climatic domain
Map of the five broad climatic domains AND Distribution of global forest area (2005) by climatic domain. Chart from the UN FAO's Global forest land-use change from 1990 to 2005: Initial results from a global remote sensing survey.

Status of Global Forests
StatusForest cover (M ha)% of forest coveryearSource
Primary forest cover1350362010FAO 2010
Secondary forest cover2150572010FAO 2010
Planted forests26472010FAO 2010


Macro-scale deforestation estimates
Region / typePeriodForest cover (M ha/yr)Source
Gross global forest loss1990-200014.2FAO 2011
Gross global forest loss2000-200515.2FAO 2011
Global forests1990-200016FAO 2010 (old)
Global forests2000-201013FAO 2010 (old)
Global primary forests1990-20004.7FAO 2010
Global primary forests2000-20104.2FAO 2010
Net deforestation1990-20054.9FAO 2011
Net deforestation1990-20004.1FAO 2011
Net deforestation2000-20056.4FAO 2011
Net deforestation1990-20008.3FAO 2010 (old)
Net deforestation2000-20105.2FAO 2010 (old)
Tropical forests1990-200011.33FAO 2010
Tropical forests2000-20109.34FAO 2010
Net tropical deforestation1990-20006.3FAO 2011
Net tropical deforestation2000-20058FAO 2011
Gross tropical deforestation1990-20008.2FAO 2011
Gross tropical deforestation2000-200510FAO 2011


Macro-scale reforestation and forest recovery estimates
Region / typePeriodForest cover (M ha/yr)Source
Afforestation, natural forest expansion1990-200010.1FAO 2011
Afforestation, natural forest expansion2000-20058.8FAO 2011


Regional-scale deforestation estimates
Region / typePeriodLow (M ha/yr)Mean (M ha/yr)High (M ha/yr)Source
Tropical Latin America2000-20051.8084.8738.485Harris et al 2012
Tropical Asia-Pacific2000-20051.1391.7852.508Harris et al 2012
Tropical Africa2000-20050.7361.8883.385Harris et al 2012


Annual change in forest area (1990-2000 and 2000-2005) by climatic domain
Annual change in forest area (1990-2000 and 2000-2005) by climatic domain. Chart from the UN FAO's Global forest land-use change from 1990 to 2005: Initial results from a global remote sensing survey.

Annual change in forest land-use area (1990-2000 and 2000-2005) by region
Annual change in forest land-use area (1990-2000 and 2000-2005) by region. Chart from the UN FAO's Global forest land-use change from 1990 to 2005: Initial results from a global remote sensing survey.

How much forest has been cut down in the history of civilizations?

In his excellent Deforesting the earth: from prehistory to global crisis, Williams estimates that humans have cleared some 1.8 billion hectares over the past 5,000 years, or an average net loss of 360,000 hectares per year.

CHART: Estimated deforestation, by type of forest
and time period
Estimated deforestation, by type of forest and time period. Chart from the UN FAO's State of the World’s Forests 2012.

GRAPH: World population and cumulative
deforestation, 1800 to 2010
World population and cumulative deforestation, 1800 to 2010. Graph from the UN FAO's State of the World’s Forests 2012.










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