By Steve Nix
Here are Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FOA) maps of significant forest cover on all continents of the World. These forest land maps have been constructed based on data FOA data. The dark green represents closed forests, mid-green represents open and fragmented forests, light green represents some trees in shrub and bushland.
Forests cover some 3.9 billion hectares (or 9.6 billion acres) which is approximately 30% of the World's land surface. FAO estimates that around 13 million hectares of forests were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes annually between 2000 and 2010. Their estimated annual rate of forest area increase was 5 million hectares.
Africa's forest cover is estimated at 650 million hectares or 17 per cent of the world's forests. The major forest types are dry tropical forests in the Sahel, Eastern and Southern Africa, moist tropical forests in Western and Central Africa, subtropical forest and woodlands in Northern Africa and mangroves in coastal zones of the southern tip. FAO sees "enormous challenges, reflecting the larger constraints of low income, weak policies and inadequately developed institutions" in Africa.
Asia and the Pacific region accounts for 18.8 per cent of global forests. Northwest Pacific and East Asia has the largest forest area followed by Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, South Asia, South Pacific and Central Asia. FAO concludes that "while forest area will stabilize and increase in most of the developed countries...demand for wood and wood products will continue to increase in line with the growth in population and income.
Europe's 1 million hectares of forests comprise 27 per cent of the world's total forested area and cover 45 per cent of the European landscape. A wide variety of boreal, temperate and sub-tropical forest types are represented, as well as tundra and montane formations. FAO reports "Forest resources in Europe are expected to continue to expand in view of declining land dependence, increasing income, concern for protection of the environment and well-developed policy and institutional frameworks."
Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the World's most important forest regions, with nearly one-quarter of the world's forest cover. The region contains 834 million hectares of tropical forest and 130 million hectares of other forests. FAO suggests that "Central America and the Caribbean, where population densities are high, increasing urbanization will cause a shift away from agriculture, forest clearance will decline and some cleared areas will revert to forest...in South America, the pace of deforestation is unlikely to decline in the near future despite low population density."
Forests cover about 26 per cent of North America's land area and represent more than 12 per cent of the world's forests. The United States is the fourth most forested country in the World with 226 million hectares. Canada's forest area has not grown during the past decade but forests in the United States have increased by almost 3.9 million hectares. FAO reports that "Canada and the United States of America will continue to have fairly stable forest areas, although the divestment of woodlands owned by large forest companies could affect their management."
Forests and woodlands of West Asia occupy only 3.66 million hectares or 1 per cent of the region's land area and account for less than 0.1 per cent of the world's total forested area. FAO sums the region up by saying, "adverse growing conditions limit the prospects for commercial wood production. Rapidly increasing incomes and high population growth rates suggest that the region will continue to depend on imports to meet demand for most wood products.
The northern forest circles the globe through Russia, Scandinavia and North America, covering approximately 13.8 million km2 (UNECE and FAO 2000). This boreal forest is one of the two largest terrestrial ecosystems on Earth, the other being the tundra - a vast treeless plain that lies north of the boreal forest and stretches to the Arctic Ocean. The boreal forests are an important resource for the Arctic countries but have little commercial value.