Forest resources

As a group, SIDS possess extensive forests. However, due to a considerable variation in land area,1 population density and climatic, geological and topographical conditions, the extent of forest cover differs greatly among the island states.

According to the latest estimates (FAO, 2000), forest cover ranges from 76 to 96 percent of the total land area in the Cook Islands, Palau, Solomon Islands and the Bahamas to under 10 percent in many of the smaller island states and zero percent in Bahrain and Malta. 2 The four low-lying coastal states (Guinea-Bissau, Belize, Guyana and Suriname) all have substantial forest cover ranging from 59 to 91 percent of the total land area.

Among the island states with a land area of less than 50 000 km2, the combined forest cover was estimated at 38.4 percent of the total land area in 2000, whereas the world average was 29.6 percent.

Haiti, Saint Lucia, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Comoros and Samoa had the highest annual rates of deforestation from 1990 to 2000, ranging from 2.1 to 5.7 percent. Belize also had a high deforestation rate in the 1990s at 2.3 percent. The main causes of deforestation include conversion of forests into agricultural land and infrastructure development.

The Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga are among countries with high rates of forest degradation due to heavy exploitation of timber resources. Forest degradation due to natural causes (e.g. cyclones and forest fires) is also common in some SIDS.

Cape Verde, Cuba, Grenada and Vanuatu registered a positive change in forest cover from 1990 to 2000, mainly as a result of afforestation efforts. 3

Among SIDS with limited forest cover, trees outside forests (such as on agricultural land) often play a very important role in local livelihoods. It is an unquantified, undervalued resource, which nevertheless often has very significant local value. Many small island nations, for instance, have abundant coconut trees, which serve as sources of wood, coconut, copra and palm oil for the local population.


Forest Cover 2000 and Changes in Forest Cover 1990-2000
for Small Islands Developing States

Country Land Area Total Forest 2000 Change in Forest Cover 1990-2000
000 ha 000 ha % of land area Total Forest 1990
000 ha
Total Change 1990-2000
000 ha
Annual Change
000 ha
Annual Change
rate (%)
Cape Verde 403 85 21.1 35 50 5 9.3
Comoros 186 8 4.3 12 -4 n.s. -4.3
Guinea-Bissau 3612 2187 77.8 2403 -216 -22 -0.9
Mauritius 202 16 5.9 17 -1 n.s. -2.7
Sao Tome and Principe 95 27 28.3 27 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Seychelles 45 30 66.7 30 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Total Africa 4543 2353 51.8 2524 -171 -17 -0.7
Bahrain 69 n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s.
Cyprus 925 172 18.6 119 53 5 3.7
Maldives 30 1 3.3 1 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Singapore* 61 2 3.3 2 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Total Asia 1085 175 16.1 122 53 5 3.7
Cook Islands 23 22 95.7 22 n.s. n.s. n.s.
FederatedStates of Micronesia 69 15 21.7 24 -9 -1 -4.5
Fiji 1827 815 44.6 832 -17 -2 -0.2
Kiribati 73 28 38.4 28 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Marshall Islands 18 n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s.
Nauru 2 n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s.
Niue 26 6 23.1 6 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Palau 46 35 76.1 35 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Papua New Guinea 45239 30601 67.6 31730 -1129 -3 -0.4
Samoa 282 105 37.2 130 -25 -3 -2.1
Solomon Islands 2856 2536 88.8 2580 -44 -4 -0.2
Tonga 73 4 5.5 4 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Tuvalu* 3 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Vanuatu 1218 447 36.7 441 6 1 0.1
Total Oceania 51755 34614 66.9 35832 -1218 -122 -0.4
Malta 32 n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s.
Total Europe 32 n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s.
Antigua and Barbuda 44 9 20.5 9 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Bahamas 1001 842 84.1 842 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Barbados 43 2 4.7 2 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Belize 2280 1348 59.1 1704 -356 -36 -2.3
Cuba 10982 2348 21.4 2071 277 28 1.3
Dominica 75 46 61.3 50 -4 0 -0.7
Dominican Republic 4838 1376 28.4 1376 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Grenada 34 5 14.7 5 n.s. n.s. 0.9
Haiti 2756 88 3.2 158 -70 -7 -5.7
Jamaica 1083 325 30.0 379 -54 -5 -1.5
Saint Kitts and Nevis 36 4 11.1 4 n.s. n.s. -0.6
Saint Lucia 61 9 14.8 14 -5 -1 -4.9
Saint Vincent and Grenadines 39 6 15.4 7 -1 n.s. -1.4
Trinidad and Tobago 513 259 50.5 281 -22 -2 -0.8
Total North and Central America 23785 6667 28.0 6902 -235 -24 -0.4
Guyana 21498 16879 78.5 17365 -486 -49 -0.3
Suriname 15600 14113 90.5 14113 n.s. n.s. n.s.
Total South America 37098 30992 83.5 31478 -486 -49 -0.2
GrandTotal for SIDS 118298 74801 63.2 76858 -2057 -206 -0.3
GrandTotal Island States< 50 000 km2 19087 7325 38.4 7472 -147 -15 -0.2
GrandTotal for World 13063900 3869455 29.6 3963429 -93974 -9397 -0.2
The regional groups used in this table represent FAO's standardized regional breakdown of the world according to geographical criteria. Forest is defined as land with tree crown cover of more than 10 percent and area of more than 0.5 ha whose primary use is forestry. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 metres at maturity in situ. Numbers may not tally due to rounding.
n.s. = not significant; indicating a very small value
* = not FAO Member State

Notes:

1 - SIDS range from 20 km2 (Nauru) to more than 450 000 km2 (Papua New Guinea).

2 - Out of the 41 Small Island Developing States, 11 have forest cover of less than 10 percent of the total land area (Bahrain, Barbados, the Comoros, Haiti, Maldives, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Singapore and Tonga). Two of these states (Bahrain and Malta) reportedly have no forest cover. No data are available for Tuvalu.

3 - The total forest area in Cape Verde is reported to have more than doubled in size, from 35 000 ha to 85 000 ha, equivalent to an annual increase of 9.3 percent.

last updated:  Saturday, October 15, 2005