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 a proportion of total land area, 2000-2020 (percent)

Key results

According to the latest data from the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020, the proportion of forest area of the world’s land area has gradually decreased from 31.9 percent in 2000 (4.2 billion hectares) to 31.5 percent in 2010, then down to 31.2 percent (4.1 billion ha) in 2020. Forest area losses amounted to almost 100 million hectares in the past two decades, however the rate of loss has slightly slowed down within the past ten years. 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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