Forests and timbers > Forest situation

Forest situation


Forests play a pivotal role in preserving ecosystems and biodiversity, and in curbing the effect of climate change.

Around 31% of the total global surface is forest area. In other words, forests cover a little under 4,000 million hectares.

Forests are distributed irregularly around the world: 229 countries have forest areas that exceed 50% of their total surface, whilst 64 have forest areas under 10% of their total surface. Five countries, the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the US and China combined cover half of the total forest surface.

On a global scale, 36% of forests are considered primary (native forests with no visible indications of human activity; ecological processes do not suffer considerable disruptions).


Evolución de los precios de la madera


Deforestation, caused directly by man-made actions on nature, is having an alarming effect on the existing forest area, mainly due to felling performed by the timber industry, felling carried out to obtain soil for agriculture.

The main causes of deforestation are:

1. Uncontrolled felling for timber.

2. Felling performed to open large surfaces for agriculture and stock breeding.

3. Fires.

4. Construction of larger urban and rural areas.

5. Plagues and diseases that affect trees.

The main consequences of deforestation are:

1. Soil erosion and destabilization of phreatic layers*, which in turn cause flooding or drought.

2. Climate change.

3. Reduction of biodiversity, of different plant and animal species.

4. Global warming: deplenished forests cannot eliminate the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Forest growth

Tasa de crecimiento forestal

The chart indicates how forests are distributed irregularly around the world.

According to FAO, global deforestation, namely the transformation of tropical forests into agricultural crops, has dropped over the last ten years, but continues to grow at an alarming rate in many countries, with figures showing declines of around 13 million hectares a year between the years 2000 and 2010 (0.4% of the total), which amounts to 35,000 hectares a day.

In the 90s Brazil and Indonesia registered the greatest loss in forest surface, but have currently cut down on their deforestation rates. Central America and Africa currently experience the greatest annual loss in forest surface.

Countries have not only improved their forestry legislation and policies; they have also allocated the use of forests to local communities and indigenous populations, and are aware of the role forests play in preserving the biology and other environmental purposes.

Forests are one of the world’s greatest carbon sinks. They store some 289 gigatons** (Gtons) of carbon in trees and other vegetation. Carbon stored in the forest biomass, dead wood, dead leaves and earth -combined- exceeds the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere. On a global scale, carbon reserves in the forest biomass decreased by 0.5 Gton/year from 2000-2010, mainly due to the reduction in total forestry surface.

This map shows lost forest surface in brown and living forest surface in green.

Mapa deforestación mundial

Over the last 8000 years, about half of the forest area in the world has been destroyed. The initial 6000 million hectares of forest area has almost been halved at present.

*Phreatic layer: The first level of subterranean water that appears when perforating the earth.

**Gigaton: One thousand million tons.


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