Data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have been compiled to show the state of the world’s forests and the results paint an interesting picture. While the overall area of forestland declined by just over 1 percent during the last decade (a slower rate than the previous decade), the pattern of forestland decline is instructive.
In most regions of the world, forestland expanded or declined very slightly. As the chart demonstrates, the two areas where forestland declined are Africa and South America.
Interestingly, the wealthiest parts of the world have also witnessed the largest increases in forest cover. The poorest parts of the world are seeing the greatest declines. This contradicts the image some have of industrial forestry destroying forests, leading to deforestation.
One of the causes of deforestation in Africa is subsistence, cutting down trees to cook food, heat homes and other poverty-related activities. In South America, deforestation to clear space for farming continues to be a significant factor.
To address deforestation, we need to understand its causes. These data provide some guidance on the real threats to forest ecosystems.