The World's Forests from a Restoration Perspective

The World's Forests from a Restoration Perspective

This map shows the world’s forests as they used to be and as they are today. Green areas are the landscapes of today’s forests. Intact (large undisturbed) forests appear in dark green, and managed or fragmented forests in lighter shades of green (dense forests in medium green have a canopy cover of at least 30% while sparse, open forests in light green can be as low as 15%).

Brown areas represent estimates of historical forest cover. These are areas where climate conditions are believed to have allowed forests to grow at some point after the latest glaciation, but where forests have been replaced by developed land and croplands (dark brown) or pastures and grasslands (light brown). Red areas show recent (2000 to 2005) tropical deforestation.

The Problem and the Opportunity

Forests once covered almost twice the area that they do today. Large expanses have been converted or degraded to produce food, timber, and energy. The loss is continuing at a rapid rate. Just one fifth of the world’s original forest cover remains in large tracts of relatively undisturbed forest.

But forests can recover. Restoration of degraded lands (i.e., some brown areas on the map) is receiving increasing attention because of the vast opportunities involved: climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration and substitution of fossil fuels with biomass; climate change adaptation through creation of shade and buffers; contributions to rural livelihoods through outgrower schemes and better access to firewood; increased food security; reduced risk of flooding and mud slides; biodiversity conservation through habitat improvement and migration corridors; and production of forest products to serve markets near and far. (IPCC, 2007; FAO 2005 and 2006; MA, 2005).

Not all converted or degraded forests, however, are suitable for restoration. Some of the world’s most productive agricultural lands are former forests, and significant areas that were once covered by trees have been converted to urban and industrial uses. But vast areas of marginally productive lands and pastures could grow trees once more and be part of multifunctional forest landscapes.


The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration

The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) is a worldwide network that unites influential governments, major UN and non-governmental organizations, companies and individuals with a common cause. We believe that ideas transform landscapes. The partnership provides the information and tools to strengthen restoration efforts around the world and builds support for forest landscape restoration (FLR) with decision-makers and opinion-formers, both at local and international level.

This preliminary map was prepared for the GPFLR by the World Resources Institute, South Dakota State University and IUCN, and is the starting point for a global assessment of restoration potential.

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1 Comment

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I think that you need to

I think that you need to separate managed forests from fragmented forests on your map. They are completely different. I think that they would show up as such given the resolution of your maps.