62. During the course of FRA 2000, the Forest Resources Assessment Programme developed a corporate information system to archive, analyse and disseminate information through the World Wide Web (Figure 4). Using internet technology, an open forum for dialogue with the countries and increased transparency in FAO statistics sources and methods has been achieved. Because of this new way of working, FAO has stimulated country interaction and involvement in the assessment process, as well as public awareness. At the end of the assessment, the information system was incorporated into the FAO Regular Programme.

Figure 4. Dynamically loaded country profiles on forests and forestry constitutes a major output of FRA 2000. The profiles are available to the public through the FAO website at



63. Since 1951, FAO has reported on the world’s forest resources in fulfilment of its mandate to collect, analyze and disseminate information on forests and forestry. The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 is FAO’s latest assessment. It was a joint endeavour, carried out by FAO in co-operation with partners and its member countries. Countries participated actively in the assessment and provided the core information for reporting on forests at the national level.

64. The 2000 assessment concluded that the world’s forest cover at the year 2000 was about 3.9 billion hectares. Net deforestation at the global level was estimated at an annual rate of approximately 9 million hectares, with gross global deforestation at 13.5 million hectares. At the same time, the reported annual rate of 4.5 million ha for establishing new plantations was markedly higher than in the past, and the successful planted stands (estimated at 3 million ha/year for the 1990's as a whole) offset some of the losses in natural forests.

65. Fires in forests continued to be a significant problem in the 1990s. Though evidence indicates that the 1980s also sustained large and damaging fires. El Niño-related weather conditions along with traditional practices of forest burning in the tropics combined to have devastating effects on the forests of many tropical countries, as well as the livelihoods of their citizens. Other countries suffered large fires during the 1990s due to high fuel loads accumulations resulting from fire exclusion policies.

66. On the positive side, initiatives relating to sustainable forest management have stimulated many countries to develop management plans for their forests. About 6 percent of tropical forests are now subject to such plans, as are 88 percent of the forests in industrialized countries. Monitoring is still needed to assess implementation of the plans. Additionally, 10 percent of the world’s forests are now under some form of formal protection, such as national parks or forest reserves.

67. The availability of reliable and current forest resource and forestry information remains a major issue for global and national assessments. Despite the fact that forestry matters have been high on the agenda in many international fora over the past decades, and some countries have improved their own forest inventories, there was little overall improvement in information quality at the global level during the 1990s. While FRA 2000 collected and analysed more basic technical information than any previous assessment, analysis of the information base show that reliable information on forest area, forest change, volume and biomass was not available for the majority of the world’s forests. Further investment is needed in order to develop more comprehensive information for supporting both national and international forestry initiatives.

68. One consequence of the information scarcity is that it is difficult to establish valid time series – at the national as well as global levels. While the previous global assessment (1990) used a similar approach, the results cannot be directly compared to the present study, due to changes in definitions, information quality and methodologies. In the current assessment, a transparent approach was adopted to ensure that all steps in the processing were made publicly available. Besides adding to the credibility of current results, it is expected that dialogue on forest and forestry information will be enriched and that the 2000 assessment can be compared more reliably with future findings.

69. The continued high loss of tropical forest cover and the outbreak of major wildfires, in contrast to the increase in reported plantation establishment, successes in forest management, and protected areas provide a complex picture for the future of the world’s forests, and mankind’s interaction with them. Future global assessments should strive to improve both the accuracy and depth of the information provided by increasing country capacity, developing worldwide assessment standards and encouraging the development of a global forest survey system. Decision-makers must also be fully involved in defining future information needs that will address their questions and concerns about the state and rate of change of the world’s forests.


FAO. 1995a. Forest resources assessment 1990 - Global synthesis. FAO Forestry Paper 124. ISSN 0258-6150.
FAO. 1995b. Forest resources assessment 1990 - Tropical forest plantation resources. FAO Forestry Paper 128. ISSN 0258-6150.
FAO. 1996. Forest resources assessment 1990 - Survey of tropical forest cover and study of change processes. FAO Forestry paper 130. ISSN 0258-6150.
FAO. 1997. State of the World's Forests 1997. FAO, Rome. ISBN 92-5-203977-5.
FAO. 2001. Proceedings of FAO Expert Consultation to Review the FRA 2000 Methodology for Regional and Global Forest Change Assessment. Forest Resources Assessment Programme, Working Paper 42. (
Nyyssönen, A. & Ahti, A. (editors.) . 1997. Proceedings of FAO Expert Consultation on Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 in Cooperation with ECE and UNEP with the Support of the Government of Finland (Kotka III). The Finnish Forest Research Institute, Research Paper 620. ISBN 951-40-1541-X.
Päivinen, R and Gillespie, A.J.R. 2000. Estimating Global Forest Change 1980 -1990 – 2000
A background document prepared for an international panel of experts convened to review methods to be used in completing the FAO Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) 2000. Rome, March 2000.
Rudel, T., Flesher, K., Bates, D., Baptista, S. & Holmgren, P. 2000. Tropical deforestation literature: geographical and historical patterns. Unasylva 203:11-18.
UN-ECE. 2000. Forest Resources of Europe, CIS, North America, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, Main Report. United Nations, Geneva. ISBN 92-1-116735-3.


The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 was the product of concerted effort and teamwork on the part of many individuals inside and outside of FAO. Authors of the various sections in this report were Robert Davis (Global Maps); Joachim Lorbach (Removals); Peter Holmgren (Forest Cover, Volume and Biomass, Protected Areas, and Information Systems); Jim Carle (Plantations); Mette Løyche Wilkie (Forest Management); Michelle Gauthier (Trees Outside of Forests); Bob Mutch and Gillian Allard (Fires); Laura Russo (Non-wood Forest Products); and Anne Branthomme and Ingemar Eriksson (Remote Sensing Survey). Jim Ball and Jim Space edited much of the document text. Sören Holm provided invaluable assistance in the statistical analyses of the remote sensing survey data. The entire FRA unit contributed to the development of the various data inputs, along with personnel in the FOR and FOP Divisions.




The definitions below are taken from FAO (2000) in which the original definition formulations in FAO (1998) are elaborated.

Land use classification


Forests are lands of more than 0.5 ha, with a tree canopy cover of more than 10 percent, which are not primarily under agricultural or urban land use.

Explanatory note

Forests are determined both by the presence of trees and the absence of other predominant land uses. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters in situ. Areas under reforestation which have yet to reach a crown density of 10 percent or tree height of 5 m are included, as are temporarily unstocked areas, resulting from human intervention or natural causes, that are expected to regenerate. The term specifically includes: forest nurseries and seed orchards that constitute an integral part of the forest; forest roads, firebreaks and other small open areas; forest in national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas such as those of specific scientific, historical, cultural or spiritual interest; windbreaks and shelterbelts of trees with an area of more than 0.5 ha and width of more than 20 m; plantations primarily used for forestry purposes, including rubberwood plantations and cork oak stands. The term specifically excludes trees planted primarily for agricultural production, for example in fruit plantations and agroforestry systems

Other wooded land

Other Wooded Land is land with a canopy cover of 5-10 percent of trees able to reach a height of 5 m in situ; or a canopy cover of more than 10 percent when smaller trees, shrubs and bushes are included.

Other land

Other land is, for the purpose of forestry, any land not classified as forest or other wooded land as defined above. Includes agricultural land, meadows and pastures, built-on areas, barren land, etc.

Inland water

Area occupied by major rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

Trees outside forests

Trees outside forests are trees and tree environments on land not defined as forest or other wooded land.

Explanatory note

Trees outside forests (ToF) include: (a) groups of trees covering an area of less than 0.5 ha, including lines and shelterbelts along infrastructure features and agricultural fields; (b) scattered trees in agricultural landscapes; (c) tree plantations mainly for other purposes than wood, such as fruit orchards and palm plantations; and (d) trees in parks and gardens and around buildings. ToF are not assigned an area in the overall land use classification, but occurs inside Other land. Although the definition of ToF is based on the trees, the concept includes also the site and other vegetation at the location.

Forest change processes


Forest change processes are central to several national and international forest policy agendas. They are also of high interest to the public in general and are often referred to by media. Many organizations are engaged in forest change issues, and the definitions are therefore important and also politically sensitive. The below summarizes the definitions as used by FAO's Forestry Department. Five terms are defined below. Figure 1 gives an overview of how these relate.

Note that to determine whether the removal of trees from an area is deforestation, it is necessary to predict the future development for the area. If new forest trees are established in the relatively near future, the land is classified as forest throughout the regeneration period (and this regrowth is named "reforestation"). If, on the other hand, a sufficient density of trees is not established in the relatively near future, or if land is converted to other land use, the area should be considered deforested.

Note also that the time frame is central to the forest change definitions and that the length of the threshold period, defaulted to ten years, should be used consistently when applying the terms, to avoid overlaps or gaps in the reporting. Thus "long-term" refers to ten years or more, and "temporary" refers to shorter than ten years. Note that local climatological conditions, land use contexts or the purpose of the analysis may justify that a longer threshold period is used.

Figure 1. Relationships between forest change terms. Forest degradation and Forest improvement occur within forests that continuously stay above the 10% canopy threshold. Reforestation occurs when forests regrowth after temporarily having had below 10% canopy cover, but were considered as forests throughout that time. Deforestation and Afforestation represent the transfers between forest and other land use classes.


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Deforestation is the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of tree canopy cover below the 10% threshold.

Explanatory note

Deforestation implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained through a continued man-induced or natural perturbation. Deforestation includes, for example, areas of forest converted to agriculture (including agroforestry), pasture, water reservoirs and urban areas. The term specifically excludes areas where the trees have been removed, due, for example, to harvesting or logging, and where the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of silvicultural measures within the long-term. Unless followed by clearing of the remaining logged-over forest for the introduction of alternative land-uses, and the maintenance of the clearings through continued disturbance, forests commonly regenerate, although often to a different, secondary condition. In areas of shifting agriculture, forest, forest fallow and agricultural lands appear in a dynamic pattern where deforestation and the return of forest occur frequently in small patches. To simplify reporting of such areas, the net change over a larger area is typically used. Deforestation also includes areas where overutilization or changing environmental conditions, influence the forest to an extent that it cannot (currently) sustain a tree cover above the 10% threshold, for example burnt-over areas where severe ground conditions or recurring fires for the long-term prevents the return of forest formations, or areas that after clearcutting cannot regenerate because of frost, competing vegetation, or other natural conditions. The concept "long-term" is central in this definition and is defined as ten years. Local climatological conditions, land use contexts or the purpose of the analysis may however justify that a longer time frame is used.


Afforestation is the conversion from other land uses into forest, or the increase of the canopy cover to above the 10% threshold.

Explanatory note

Afforestation is the reverse of deforestation and includes areas that are actively converted from other land uses into forest through silvicultural measures. Afforestation also includes natural transitions into forest, for example on abandoned agricultural land or in burnt-over areas that have not been classified as forest during the barren period. As for deforestation, the conversion should be long-term, that is areas where the transition into forest is expected to last less than ten years, for example due to recurring fires, should not be classified as afforestation areas. The concept "long-term" is central in this definition and is defined as ten years. Local climatological conditions, land use contexts or the purpose of the analysis may however justify that a longer time frame is used.


Reforestation is the re-establishment of forest formations after a temporary condition with less than 10% canopy cover due to human-induced or natural perturbations.

Explanatory note

The definition of forest clearly states that forests under regeneration are considered as forests even if the canopy cover is temporarily below 10 per cent. Many forest management regimes include clearcutting followed by regeneration, and several natural processes, notably forest fires and windfalls, may lead to a temporary situation with less than 10 percent canopy cover. In these cases, the area is considered as forest, provided that the re-establishment (i.e. reforestation) to above 10 percent canopy cover takes place within the relatively near future. As for deforestation, the time frame is central. The concept "temporary" is central in this definition and is defined as less than ten years. Local climatological or land use contexts, or the purpose of the analysis, may however justify that a longer time frame is used.

Forest degradation

Forest degradation is a reduction of the canopy cover or stocking within a forest.

Explanatory note

For the purpose of having a harmonized set of forest and forest change definitions, that also is measurable with conventional techniques, forest degradation is assumed to be indicated by the reduction of canopy cover and/or stocking of the forest through logging, fire, windfelling or other events, provided that the canopy cover stays above 10% (cf. definition of forest). In a more general sense, forest degradation is the long-term reduction of the overall potential supply of benefits from the forest, which includes wood, biodiversity and any other product or service.

Forest improvement

Forest improvement is the increase of the canopy cover or stocking within a forest.

Explanatory note

For the purpose of having a harmonized set of forest and forest change definitions, that also is measurable with conventional techniques, forest improvement is assumed to be indicated by the increase of canopy cover and/or stocking of the forest through growth. In a more general sense (cf. forest degradation) forest improvement is the long-term increase of the overall potential supply of benefits from the forest, which includes wood, biodiversity and any other product or service.


FAO 1998. FRA 2000 - Terms and Definitions. Forest Resources Assessment Programme, Working Paper 1.
FAO 2000. On definitions of forest and forest change. Forest Resources Assessment Programme, Working Paper 33.

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