What is a forest?

Forests are lands spanning more than 0.5ha, with trees higher than 5m and a canopy cover of more than 10%, excluding land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use (FAO). Therefore, fruit trees or palm oil tree plantations are not considered as forests.
Forests cover 31% of global land surface and house a very important biodiversity. A third of forests are primary forests where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.
Worldwide, there are five types of forests: boreal, polar, temperate, subtropical and tropical (with the Amazon and a mosaic of various forests). The largest part of the forest (45%) is found in the tropics.

Global forest area by climatic domain

   The Role of Forests

Forests have a key role in the conservation of social and ecological balances. They provide a wide range of services:

  • Wood (construction, heating) and paper production
  • Making available non-timber products (cocoa, honey, resins, nuts, fruits, flowers, grains, mushrooms, meat and wild berries) essential for food and medicine provisions, in particular for native population.

  • Climate regulation through water evaporation and cloud formation,carbon storage

  • Barrier against floods, landslides or storms through the control of water run-off

  • Water cleaning (pollutants filtering through the root system)

  • House of many animal species that are essential to agriculture: pollinating insects, but also predators for culture pests (beetles, ladybugs, syrphid flies)

  • Cultural,touristic and heritage value

Nowadays, almost 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their survival.

Forests disappear among other reasons because their value is under-estimated and our market economy can’t recognize the ecosystem services they provide.


World forests are in danger. Each year it’s the equivalent of Greece surface that disappears.

  • Around 80% of deforestation is directly linked to commercial agriculture and farming.
  • Almost 50% of deforestation in tropical countries is related to illegal land transformation to commercially oriented farms. At the forefront, palm oil (40% of illegal transformations), beef (32%) and soy (20%).
  • 25% of this deforestation in the tropics is aimed to provide goods to the United States, the European Union, but also China and India. This is called “imported deforestation”.

Deforestation means less trees to capture CO2 but also to boost evapotranspiration, which affects rainfall patterns, increases drought and fosters wildfires…which are in turn responsible for CO2 increase by freeing up carbon contained in soils. A catastrophic scenario that plays over and over and ever faster with climate change.

To get more information:

For more information:


French Forests

Deforestation & Health