SDG indicators 15.1.1 and 15.2.1 - Forest area and sustainable forest management

This course has been developed to guide countries in reporting on Indicators 15.1.1 and 15.2.1. It illustrates the rationale of the indicators, the definitions and methodologies on which monitoring activities are based, and explains the process and the tools available for compiling data related to the two indicators through the Global Forest Resources Assessment Programme (available in English, French and Spanish).

SDG 15 - Indicators of sustainable forests and mountains

Mountain forests


Mountains cover around 27 percent of the earth’s land surface, and forests cover more than 40 percent of the global mountain area.

Healthy mountain forests are crucial to the ecological health of the world. They protect watersheds that supply freshwater to more than half of humankind. They also harbour wildlife, provide food and fodder for mountain peoples and are important sources of timber and non-wood products. Moreover, they protect the earth and contribute to shielding the atmosphere from CO2 emissions.

Protecting these forests and making sure they are carefully managed is an important step towards sustainable mountain development. In the last decades, tropical mountain forests have been disappearing at an astounding rate. Deforestation is generally driven by population growth, the expansion of intensive agriculture, uncertain land tenure, inequitable land distribution and the absence of strong and stable institutions.

Crucially, mountain forests perform a protective function against natural hazards, so that when forest cover is lost and the land is left unprotected, runoff and soil erosion increase, provoking landslides, avalanches and floods, to the detriment of villages, transport systems, human infrastructure and of the food security of vulnerable populations.

Putting power back into the hands of mountain people is one important step towards alleviating their poverty and, in turn, protecting mountain forests. Measures that could accomplish these aims include providing incentives for biodiversity and agro-biodiversity conservation as well as the inclusion sustainable forest management plans into national policies. 

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