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Appendix 1: Definitions as in FRA Working Paper 1 and comments


The current, global definition of forest is included in a set of four land cover classes (FAO 1998) as shown in Table 1. Although most of the definition explains how many trees there must be in a forest, the most important line is the last one: "Excludes: Land predominantly used for agricultural practices". This clearly makes the current forest definition a land use definition. One then enters the discussion: what is agriculture and what is not? From the current definitions it is clear that tree plantations with the primary purpose to produce wood or wood-derived products are considered as forests, whereas tree plantations mainly producing other goods, such as coconuts or other fruits, are not. Furthermore, gardens, agroforestry areas and urban parks are not considered as forests.

Another observation is that very small patches of trees (down to 0.5 ha) are included in the forest class. This means that in most densely populated agricultural landscapes, there is often a substantial number of forest pockets in the terrain, and that many small woodlots qualify as forests. These forests are typically difficult to identify and monitor with satellite remote sensing techniques, yet may extend over considerable areas.

Table 1. Global land cover classes, related to forestry (FAO 1998)

Land cover class


Total area1

Total area (of country), including area under inland water bodies, but excluding offshore territorial waters.


Land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10 percent and area of more than 0.5 hectares (ha). The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters (m) at maturity in situ. May consist either of closed forest formations where trees of various storeys and undergrowth cover a high proportion of the ground; or open forest formations with a continuous vegetation cover in which tree crown cover exceeds 10 percent. Young natural stands and all plantations established for forestry purposes which have yet to reach a crown density of 10 percent or tree height of 5 m are included under forest, as are areas normally forming part of the forest area which are temporarily unstocked as a result of human intervention or natural causes but which are expected to revert to forest.

Includes: forest nurseries and seed orchards that constitute an integral part of the forest; forest roads, cleared tracts, 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.

Excludes: Land predominantly used for agricultural practices

Other wooded land

Land either with a crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of 5-10 percent of trees able to reach a height of 5 m at maturity in situ; or a crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10 percent of trees not able to reach a height of 5 m at maturity in situ (e.g. dwarf or stunted trees); or with shrub or bush cover of more than 10 percent.

Other land

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.

1) The Total land area is defined as the Total area, but excluding Inland water.

Deforestation, reforestation and afforestation

These terms are not clearly formulated in the previous FRA documentation (Table 2). The definition of deforestation only refers to (permanent) depletion of forest cover and do not connect well to the important part of the forest definiton saying that agricultural land use disqualifies tree covered areas as forests. The current definition of deforestation does not mention conversion of land use.

Furthermore, the term reforestation is ambiguously defined. The forest definition clearly says that logged-over forests that are regenerated, is still considered as forest. In common forestry language this is often understood as "reforestation", but the wording in Table 2 imply that the forest must first be gone, before reforestation can happen. This also conforms to IPCC nomenclature which indicate that reforestation and afforestation implies a land use change from other land use into forest. In the main document to this appendix, the term reforestation is defined unambiguously as regrowth of forest without any changes of land use involved in the process, which is a clearer distinction.

Finally, there is no clear explanation why afforestation and reforestation must be "artificial", or what is meant by this word.

In addition to the current FAO definitions, comments to IPCC preliminary definitons include that an area-oriented land classification may be a poor indicator of carbon storages and fluxes.

Table 2. Current forest change definitions (FAO 1998)


Refers to change of land cover with depletion of tree crown cover to less than 10 percent. Changes within the forest class (e.g. from closed to open forest) which negatively affect the stand or site and, in particular, lower the production capacity, are termed forest degradation.

Forest degradation

Takes different forms, particularly in open forest formations, deriving mainly from human activities such as over-grazing, over-exploitation (for firewood or timber), repeated fires, or due to attacks by insects, diseases, plant parasites or other natural sources such as cyclones. In most cases, degradation does not show as a decrease in the area of woody vegetation but rather as a gradual reduction of biomass, changes in species composition and soil degradation. Unsustainable logging practices can contribute to degradation if the extraction of mature trees is not accompanied with their regeneration or if the use of heavy machinery causes soil compaction or loss of productive forest area.

New plantations:

a) Afforestation

b) Reforestation

Artificial establishment of forest on lands which previously did not carry forest within living memory.

Artificial establishment of forest on lands which carried forest before.

FRA Working Papers


How to write a FRA Working Paper (10 pp. – E)


FRA 2000 Terms and Definitions (18 pp. - E/F/S/P)


FRA 2000 Guidelines for assessments in tropical and sub-tropical countries (43 pp. - E/F/S/P)


The status of the forest resources assessment in the South-Asian sub-region and the country capacity building needs. Proceedings of the GCP/RAS/162/JPN regional workshop held in Dehradun, India, 8-12 June 1998. (186 pp. - E)


Volume/Biomass Special Study: georeferenced forest volume data for Latin America (93 pp. - E)


Volume/Biomass Special Study: georeferenced forest volume data for Asia and Tropical Oceania (102 pp. - E)


Country Maps for the Forestry Department website (21 pp. - E)


Forest Resources Information System (FORIS) – Concepts and Status Report (20 pp. E)


Remote Sensing and Forest Monitoring in FRA 2000 and beyond. (22 pp. - E)


Volume/Biomass special Study: Georeferenced Forest Volume Data for Tropical Africa (97 pp. – E)


Memorias del Taller sobre el Programa de Evaluación de los Recursos Forestales en once Países Latinoamericanos (pp. 194 - S)


Non-wood forest Products study for Mexico, Cuba and South America (draft for comments) (82 pp. – E)


Annotated bibliography on Forest cover change – Nepal (59 pp. – E)


Annotated bibliography on Forest cover change – Guatemala (66 pp. – E)


Forest Resources of Bhutan - Country Report (80 pp. – E)


Forest Resources of Bangladesh – Country Report (93 pp. – E)


Forest Resources of Nepal – Country Report (78 pp. - E)


Forest Resources of Sri Lanka – Country Report (under preparation)


Forest plantation resource in developing countries (75 pp. – E)


Global forest cover map (14 pp. – E)


A concept and strategy for ecological zoning for the global FRA 2000 (23 pp. – E)


Planning and information needs assessment for forest fires component (32 pp. – E)


Evaluación de los productos forestales no madereros en América Central (102 pp. – S)


Forest resources documentation, archiving and research for the Global FRA 2000 (77 pp. – E)


Maintenance of Country Texts on the FAO Forestry Department Website (25 pp. – E))


Field documentation of forest cover changes for the Global FRA 2000 (under preparation)


FRA 2000 Global Ecological Zones Mapping Workshop Report Cambridge, 28-30 July 1999 (53 pp. –E)


Tropical Deforestation Literature:Geographical and Historical Patterns in the Availability of Information and the Analysis of Causes (17 pp. – E)


World Forest Survey – Concept Paper (30 pp. - E)


Forest cover mapping and monitoring with NOAA-AVHRR and other coarse spatial resolution sensors (42 pp. E)


Web Page Editorial Guidelines (22 pp. – E)


Assessing state & change in Global Forest Cover: 2000 and beyond (15 pp. – E)


Rationale & methodology for Global Forest Survey (60 pp. – E)

Please send a message to [email protected] for electronic copies or download from (under Publications)

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