Planted forests worldwide are increasingly important sources for forest products (roundwood, fibre, fuelwood and non-wood forest products) produced within sustainable, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly contexts. They also play a major role in preserving the social and cultural values attached to forests, particularly as natural forests decrease in size through deforestation (mainly in developing countries in the tropics and subtropics) or are designated for conservation or other purposes (mainly in developed countries in temperate zones).
Recently there have been concerted efforts to harmonize forest-related terms and definitions. At this point in time, it can be agreed that "planted forests" are forests in which trees have been established through planting or seeding by human intervention. Planted forests are increasingly being recognized as including semi-natural forests with indigenous species and plantation forests with exotic species.
Planted forests are often intensively managed for production purposes, but they may also be established for purposes of protection or conservation, or for socio-economic reasons, in which case management may be less obvious or intensive. The distinction is important for global assessments that attempt to capture the extent of productive, protective, conservational or socio-economic functions of forests, which are key criteria for sustainable forest management.