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

In 2020, forests covered 31.2 percent of the world’s total land area, reflecting a decline of 100 million ha over the course of past two decades.  

The proportion of the world’s total land area that is covered by forests decreased from 31.9 percent in 2000 (4.2 billion ha) to 31.5 percent in 2010, and to 31.2 percent (4.1 billion ha) in 2020. These percentages represent a loss in forest area of almost 100 million ha over the past two decades. The rate of loss has slowed down slightly over the past ten years.  

The global trend toward forest loss is the result of contrasting regional dynamics. Asia, Europe and Northern America have actually achieved an overall increase in forest area from 2000 to 2020 due to afforestation, landscape restoration efforts and the natural expansion of forests. The expansion of forest area, however, slowed down from 2010 to 2020 as compared to the period from 2000 to 2010.  

By contrast, large forest area losses have occurred in Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa over the past twenty years, mainly due to the conversion of forests into agricultural land for crops and grazing. LDCs are particularly affected by forest area losses. Forests play an important role in the livelihood and well-being of rural and urban populations. They notably contribute towards regulating the water cycle and mitigating climate change, and hold most of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. The loss of forests contributes to global warming and damages wildlife; it negatively impacts upon the livelihoods of the poor and affects land uses such as agriculture, and environmental services.  



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