The canopy path

Get a bird’s eye view of the world’s forests as revealed by our latest remote sensing survey.

So, how much forest is there exactly?

The world forest area in 2018 was 3.97 billion ha. That means about 30.8 percent of the global land area on Earth is forest.

However not all forests are the same! Among that number there exist many different forest types. The forest types looked at by our remote sensing survey include:

Planted forest

Naturally regenerating forest

Stocked forest

Unstocked forest

Our forests are continually changing

Our remote sensing data reveals that, overall, global deforestation is slowing down, as also reported by the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020.

However, deforestation is still a serious issue.

Almost 90 percent of forest losses between the years 2000 and 2018 happened in tropical areas. Tropical rainforests in South America, and South and Southeast Asia were most affected.

But South America also managed to almost halve deforestation in the last decade (2010-2018) compared to the previous.


Sub-regions deforestation trends 2000-2010 and 2010-2018

  • Deforestation 2000-2010
  • Deforestation 2010-2018

Source: Sub-regions deforestation trends 2000-2010 and 2010-2018 (FAO, 2022).

top 3 causes of deforestation



Cropland expansion represents 50 percent of deforestation globally.



Livestock grazing causes 38 percent of deforestation.


Urban development

Urban and infrastructure development account for 6 percent of deforestation.

Deforestation drivers by continent

Agriculture (cropland expansion together with livestock grazing) is the main driver of deforestation in all regions except for Europe where is it more equally distributed among agriculture and urban expansion.

Conversion to cropland dominates forest loss in Africa and Asia, with over 75 percent of the forest area lost converted to cropland.

In South America, almost three quarters of deforestation was due to livestock grazing.


Drivers of deforestation by region 2000-2018 (in Mha)

  • Cropland expansion
  • Livestock grazing
  • Urban and infrastructure development
  • Dam construction and change in water courses
  • Other drivers

How we know what we know

To determine the data presented here, 800 experts from 126 countries studied images on the Collect Earth Online platform derived by Landsat and Sentinel satellites. FAO’s open source Collect Earth Online platform was developed in collaboration with NASA and Google and tailored for this very purpose.

The experts analyzed the data falling within the territory of their countries and then shared the results with FAO. The FRA 2020 Remote Sensing Survey presents their findings in detail.

Ready to keep exploring?

Now you’ve gotten an overview of the world’s forests, let’s go a little more in-depth. Let’s look at the global importance of water sources in forests.

Go to the waterside trail