Forest Area Per Capita Decreased By Over 60%

A groundbreaking ecological experiment led by the University of Oxford on Borneo Island demonstrates the remarkable potential of replanting logged tropical forests with diverse seedlings in expediting their recovery. Published in the journal Science Advances, the study underscores the significance of biodiversity preservation in pristine forests and its restoration in recovering logged forests.

In the last 60 years, the forest area across the world declined by 81.7 million hectares, which comes to more than 60 per cent decline in global forest area per capita. The loss is a great blow to the future of biodiversityand also impacts the lives of 1.6 billion people, said a new study published by IOP Publishingin the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The findings come from a study by a team of researchers, led by Ronald C. Estoque from the Center for Biodiversity and Climate Change, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI) in Japan. In the study, they found that global forest area declined by 81.7 million hectares from 1960 to 2019, which is equivalent to an area of more than ten per cent of the entire Borneo Island.


The researchers used global land use dataset to examine how global forests have changed over space and time. They said that decline in global forests combined with increase in global population over 60 year period resulted in a decrease of the global wild area per capita by over 60 per cent, from 1.4 hectares in 1960 to 0.5 hectares in 2019.

The authors noted that continuous loss and degradation of forests affected the integrity of forest ecosystems, reducing their ability to generate and provide essential services and sustain biodiversity. It also impacts the lives of at least 1.6 billion people worldwide, predominantly in developing countries, who depend on forests for various purposes, they briefed.

The results showed that the change in spatiotemporal pattern of global forests supported the forest transition theory that forest losses occurred primarily in the lower-income countries in the tropics and forest gains in the higher-income countries in the extratropics. Lead author Ronald C. Estoque said, “despite this spatial pattern of loss occurring primarily in the less developed countries, the role of more developed nations in this said loss also needs to be studied more deeply. With the strengthening of forest conservation in more developed countries, forest loss is displaced to the less developed countries, especially in the tropics.”

“Today, monitoring of the world’s forests is an integral part of various global environmental and social initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Agreement and the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. To help achieve the goals of these initiatives, there is a profound need to reverse, or at least flatten, the global net forest loss curve by conserving the world’s remaining forests and restoring and rehabilitating degraded forest landscapes,” the authors further explain.

The world has lost about 420 million hectares (mha), approximately 10.34 per cent of its total forest area in the last 30 years, according to the 2022 edition of The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO).  Deforestation is the main villain in the loss of forests.


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