Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020

This digital report contains the main findings of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020). It examines the status of, and trends in, more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990–2020.

The information provided by FRA presents a comprehensive view of the world’s forests and the ways in which the resource is changing. Such a clear global picture supports the development of sound policies, practices and investments affecting forests and forestry.

FRA is the mechanism for collecting data on two forest-related indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 2015. Specifically, data submitted to FRA contribute to reporting on SDG indicator 15.1.1 (forest area as a proportion of total land area in 2015) and indicator 15.2.1 (progress towards sustainable forest management).

Key findings

  • Forests cover nearly one-third of the land globally. The world has a total forest area of 4.06 billion ha (9.9 billion acres), which is 31 percent of the total land area. This area is equivalent to 0.52 ha (1.3 acres) per person – although forests are not distributed equally among the world’s peoples or geographically. More than half (54 percent) of the world’s forests is in five countries: the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States and China.
  • More than 90 percent of the world’s forests have regenerated naturally. Ninety-three percent (3.75 billion ha) of the forest area worldwide is composed of naturally regenerating forests. The area of naturally regenerating forests has decreased since 1990 (at a declining rate of loss), but the area of planted forests has increased by 123 million ha (304 million acres).
  • Plantations account for about 3 percent of the world’s forests. Plantation forests cover about 131 million ha (324 million acres), which is 3 percent of the global forest area and 45 percent of the total area of planted forests.
  • About 30 percent of all forests is used primarily for production. Globally, about 1.15 billion ha (2.84 billion acres) of forest is managed primarily for the production of wood and non-wood forest products. In addition, 749 million ha (1.85 billion acres) is designated for multiple use, which often includes production.
  • Total forest carbon stock is decreasing. The total carbon stock in forests decreased from 668 gigatons in 1990 to 662 gigatons in 2020; carbon density increased slightly over the same period, from 159 tons to 163 tons per ha.
  • The world’s forests are mostly publicly owned, but the share of privately owned forests has increased since 1990. Seventy-three percent of the world’s forests is under public ownership, 22 percent is privately owned, and the ownership of the remainder is categorized as either “unknown” or “other.”
  • More than 2 billion ha of forest has management plans. The area of global forest under management plans is increasing in all regions – globally, it has increased by 233 million ha (576 million acres) since 2000, reaching 2.05 billion ha (5 billion acres) in 2020.

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The State of the World’s Forests 2020

As the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011–2020 comes to a close and countries prepare to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, this edition of The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) examines the contributions of forests, and of the people who use and manage them, to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. 

Forests cover just over 30 percent of the global land area, yet they provide habitat for the vast majority of the terrestrial plant and animal species known to science. Unfortunately, forests and the biodiversity they contain continue to be under threat from actions to convert the land to agriculture or unsustainable levels of exploitation, much of it illegal.

The State of the World’s Forests 2020 assesses progress to date in meeting global targets and goals related to forest biodiversity and examines the effectiveness of policies, actions and approaches, in terms of both conservation and sustainable development outcomes. A series of case studies provide examples of innovative practices that combine conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity to create balanced solutions for both people and the planet