Sustainable Development Goals

Indicator 15.1.1 - Forest area as a percentage of total land area

This indicator measures the proportion of the world's land area that is forested and is expressed as a percentage. Changes in forest area reflect changes in demand for land for other uses and may help in identifying unsustainable practices in the forest and agriculture sectors. The indicator will measure progress towards SDG Target 15.1.

By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements.

Forest area as proportion of total land area (percent)

  • 2000
  • 2015

Key results

Forests cover about 4 billion hectares or 30.7 per cent of the world’s land area. Of these, 93 percent (or 3.7 billion ha) are natural forests while 7 percent (291 million ha) are planted. Despite a decrease in forest area over the last decades, the rate of forest loss has been cut by 25% since the period 2000-2005. Most of the losses occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, South-eastern Asia and Latin America and are mainly attributed to the expansion of agricultural activities.

The continued loss of forests threatens a wide range of goods and services that are important for human well-being, such as an increased risk for floods and droughts and access to clean water. It is also a threat to the diversity of forest ecosystems, as most of the loss takes place in tropical forests which host at least two thirds of the terrestrial species. Furthermore, stopping deforestation contributes to reducing of impacts of climate change as forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as biomass. 

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