Rate of forest loss declined in the last three decades


Despite some 178 million hectares of forest lost worldwide over the past three decades, the rate of loss has declined substantially during this period, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said.

The FAO in its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 report said that deforestation has robbed the world of roughly 420 million hectares since 1990, mainly in Africa and South America.  Brazil, Indonesia, and Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Angola, Myanmar, Cambodia, Paraguay and Bolivia are the countries form the average annual net losses of forest area over the last 10 years.

However, the FAO says that there is good news that the rate of forest loss has declined substantially over the past three decades. Between 2015-2020, the annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares. It was 12 million during 2010-2015. IT has come down to 5.2 million ha per year in 2000–2010 and 4.7 million ha per year in 2010–2020. The report also mentions that the rate of decline of net forest loss slowed down because of reduction in the rate of forest expansion.

Meanwhile, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 report coordinator Anssi Pekkarinen warned that global targets related to sustainable forest management are at risk.

“We need to step up efforts to halt deforestation in order to unlock the full potential of forests in contributing to sustainable food production, poverty alleviation, food security, biodiversity conservation and climate change while sustaining the production of all the other goods and services they provide”, he said.

Net loss of forest area

The report said that Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020. The loss is estimated at 3.9 million ha. South America with a net loss of 2.6 million ha comes next in line. It said that the rate of loss increased in Africa in each of the three decades since 1990. However, there was a decline in loss in South America.

The report also said that Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020. Oceania and Europe followed Asia in having the highest gain.

Natural regeneration

 Though 93 percent (3.75 billion ha) of forest area worldwide is composed of naturally regenerating forests and 7 percent (290 million ha) planted forest, the report noted that the area of naturally regenerating forests has decreased since 1990. However, the planted forest area increased substantially.


Plantation forests are reported to cover about 131 million ha. This forms three percent of the forest area worldwide.

The highest share of plantation forest is in South America, where this forest type represents 99 percent of the total planted-forest area and 2 percent of the total forest area, the report said. Europe has lowest share of plantation forest.

Legally established protected areas

About 726 million ha of forest are protected areas. Of the six major world regions, South America has the highest share of forests in protected areas, at 31 percent. The area of forest in protected areas globally has increased by 191 million ha since 1990, but the rate of annual increase slowed in 2010–2020.


One of the prevalent forest disturbances in the tropics is forest fire. The report notes that about 98 million ha of forest were affected by fire in 2015 and was mostly affected in Africa and South America. Insects, diseases and severe weather events also damaged about 40 million ha of forests in 2015.

Forest stock declining

In the report, the researchers said that the total growing stock of trees decreased slightly, from 560 billion m3 in 1990 to 557 billion m3 in 2020. This is attributed to net decrease in forest area. Meanwhile, it said that growing stock was increasing per unit area globally and in all regions. The stock rose from 132 m3 per ha in 1990 to 137 m3 per ha in 2020. Tropical forests of South and Central America and West and Central Africa have the largest stock per unit area.

The report also has signalled a warning with respect biomass. The total biomass has decreased slightly since 1990 but biomass per unit area has increased, the report said.

The Global Forest Resources Assessment report is published every five years since 1990. “


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