Facts on Forests
Around the World
More than a decade of
discussions on how to protect the world's forests has resulted in
substantial changes in the way forests are managed. Policies and
programs to help promote sustainable forest management have been
devised and have taken hold in many countries. Nevertheless,
deforestation is continuing at a rapid rate, particularly in the
tropical forests of Africa and South America.
Forest loss is caused by a complex set of
social and economic pressures. Among the major factors contributing
to deforestation and forest degradation are conversion of forests to
farmland and poor forest management, including over-logging, forest
fires, and increased harvesting of wood fuels and other forest
products for household use.
Here are some
* There are 747 million acres of forestland
in the United States, about 71% as much as there was in 1630. Today,
the United States has about the same amount of land covered by trees
(or slightly less) as it did in 1907.
* America's forests are owned by private
individuals (54%), public agencies (37%), and private industries
* Three well-placed mature trees around a
house can cut air-conditioning costs by 10-50 percent, while trees
and other landscaping can increase property value by 5-10
* Trees are good for air: One mature tree
absorbs approximately 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. For every
ton of wood a forest grows, it removes 1.47 tons of carbon dioxide
and replaces it with 1.07 tons of oxygen.
* Americans use 27 percent of the wood
commercially harvested worldwide, although only 5 percent of the
world's population lives in the United States. Each U.S. citizen
consumes on average approximately 75 cubic meters of solid wood
every year -- about one ancient tree.
* An average, large healthy tree could have
about 2,000 leaves. During 60 years of its life, such a tree could
grow and shed approximately 3,600 pounds of leaves. Those leaves
return about 70 percent of the nutrients to the soil.
* Forests helps water quality. Foresters
carefully manage areas called watersheds (areas where we collect our
drinking water) and riparian zones (land bordering rivers, streams,
and lakes). These are places where maintaining water quality is the
primary concern. Forests actually help to clean water and get it
ready for us to drink. The trees, the soil, and bacteria are all
part of this process. Forest cover protects and nurtures the soils
that are the key to water retention, filtering, and
* Forests in urban areas reduce stormwater
runoffs, improve air quality, and reduce energy consumption.
* Forests cover about 30 per cent of the
world's total land area. (A forest is considered an area with at
least 10 per cent tree canopy cover.)
* The world's forest cover amounts to 3.9
billion hectares (1 hectare equals approximately 2.5
* 47 percent of the world's forests are in
the tropics, 33 percent in the boreal zone (far north), 11 percent
in the temperate zones, and 9 percent in sub-tropical
* Half of the forests that originally covered
48 percent of the Earth's land surface are gone. Only one-fifth of
the Earth's original forests remain pristine and
* In North America, more than half of the
coastal temperate rainforests, once extending from California to
Alaska, have been destroyed. Coastal temperate rainforests are one
of the most endangered forest types on the planet.
* One-third of the planet's virgin temperate
rainforest -- the largest remaining single expanse -- is in the
Tongass National Forest on the southeastern coast of Alaska. The
Tongass, which shelters the world's largest concentrations of
grizzly bears and bald eagles, is seriously threatened by
* Latin American forests are being lost at
alarming rates. The rate of forest loss in Mexico is estimated at
600,000 to 2.5 million acres per year.
* Most of the mahogany exported from Peru is
logged illegally. Illegal logging is a major threat to forests
* Less than 8 percent of Canada's boreal
forest is protected. The United States is the destination for nearly
80 percent of Canada's forest products, including lumber, toilet
paper, catalogue paper and newsprint -- much of which comes from
clearcutting in the boreal forest.
* Over 430,000 miles of roads -- more than 8
times the miles in the Interstate Highway System -- cut through U.S.
national forests. These roads, built with taxpayer money, fragment
habitat for grizzly bears, elk and other wildlife, disrupt migration
routes and destroy the scenic beauty of our woodlands. Forest roads
cause serious soil erosion and stream sedimentation, ruining water
quality and fish habitat. They have also been linked to an increase
in the frequency and severity of mudslides.
* In recent years, an average of 95 percent
of new forest roads were used for logging, with only 5 percent
devoted to recreation or general use. In 2002,The U.S. Forest
Service spent $62.3 million on forest road construction.
* In the Pacific Northwest, degradation of
soil and water resources due to industrial logging threatens some of
the last remaining wild fisheries in the continental United
* Global wood consumption is projected to
increase 50 percent by the year 2050.
* About one-sixth of the wood delivered to a
construction site is never used. Instead, it's hauled to the
landfill as wood waste scraps.
* Roughly 20 percent of the total wood used
in building a new home can be saved by framing more efficiently.
This and other building techniques, if adopted by residential
builders nationwide, would eliminate the demand to cut hundreds of
thousands of acres of forest every year. In addition, these
material-saving techniques often save builders money and
* Sustainable forestry practices can ease the
pressure on our forests. The Collins Almanor forest in California
contained 1.5 billion board feet of standing timber when harvesting
began in 1941. Sixty years and 2 billion board feet later, this
sustainably managed forest still holds 1.5 billion board feet of
standing timber, and supports great blue heron rookeries, black
bears, rubber boas and bald eagles.
* Two thirds of the world's forests are
located in ten countries: the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada,
the United States, China, Australia, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Indonesia, Angola and Peru.
* Most deforestation occurred in natural
tropical forests, which lost 14.2 million hectares a year over the
last decade. Africa and South America have suffered the most
* Africa, which lost 5.3 million hectares of
forest per year in the 1990s, was the region with the highest
deforestation in the world.
* Forests are a major factor in the climate
change issue. Forest ecosystems contain more than half of all
terrestrial carbon, and account for about 80 per cent of the
exchange of carbon between terrestrial ecosystems and the
atmosphere. Deforestation in the 1980s may have accounted for a
quarter of all human-induced carbon emissions, the second greatest
emitter after fossil fuels.
* According to the United Nations Environment
Programme's Global Biodiversity Outlook, about 60 percent, and
possibly closer to 90 percent, of all species are found in tropical
* Wood is the primary source of fuel in the
majority of developing countries. Up to 81 per cent of the wood
harvested in the developing world is used for fuelwood. In developed
countries, fuelwood accounts for less than 10 percent of total fuel