Global Forest Assessment and Reporting Team, Forestry Department
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
Postal Address:Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome 00100, Italy
The indicator is defined as the proportion of forest area to total land area and expressed as a percentage.
Forest is defined in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Forest Resources Assessment as land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 metres and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use.
Forest is determined both by the presence of trees and the absence of other predominant land uses. The trees should reach a minimum height of 5 metres (m) in situ. Areas under reforestation that have not yet reached but are expected to reach a canopy cover of 10 percent and a tree height of 5 m are included, as are temporarily unstocked areas, resulting from human intervention or natural causes, which are expected to regenerate.
Includes: areas with bamboo and palms provided that height and canopy cover criteria are met; forest roads, firebreaks and other small open areas; forest in national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas such as those of specific scientific, historical, cultural or spiritual interest; windbreaks, shelterbelts and corridors of trees with an area of more than 0.5 ha and width of more than 20 m; plantations primarily used for forestry or protective purposes, such as rubber-wood plantations and cork oak stands.
Excludes: tree stands in agricultural production systems, for example in fruit plantations and agroforestry systems. The term also excludes trees in urban parks and gardens.
The area of forest for three points in time (1990, 2000 and 2005) is used to establish estimation of trends over time. The proportion of forest area of total land area is calculated and changes in the proportion are computed to identify trends.
National forest inventories are expensive and, as a result, they are carried out at infrequent intervals in many countries. On the other hand, easier access to remote sensing imagery has enabled recent assessments of forest and tree cover in some countries. The area weighted average reference year for the latest available information on the area of forest for FRA 2005 was 2000. Differences in methodologies and definitions over time make it difficult to compare the results of different assessments within a given country and to accurately estimate changes over time.
The national figures in the database are reported by the countries themselves following standardized format, definitions and reporting years, thus eliminating any discrepancies between global and national figures. The reporting format ensures that countries provide the full reference for original data sources as well as national definitions and terminology. Separate sections in the reporting format (country reports) deal with the analysis of data (including any assumptions made and the methods used for estimates and projections to the common reporting years); calibration of data to the official land area as held by FAO; and reclassification of data to the classes used in FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessments.
FAO has been collecting and analyzing data on forest area since 1946. This is done at intervals of 5-10 years as part of the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA). FRA 2005 contains information for 229 countries and territories on more than 40 variables related to the extent of forests, their conditions, uses and values for three points in time: 1990, 2000 and 2005.
All data are provided to FAO by the countries in the form of a country report following a standard format, which includes the original data and reference sources and descriptions of how these have been used to estimate the forest area for different points in time. (For definitions, reporting guidelines and format in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian see
Officially nominated national correspondents and their teams prepared the country reports for the assessment. Some prepared more than one report as they also reported on dependent territories. For the few remaining countries and territories where no information is provided, a report is prepared by FAO using existing information and a literature search.
Once received, the country reports undergo a rigorous review process to ensure correct use of definitions and methodology as well as internal consistency. A comparison is made with past assessments and other existing data sources. Regular contacts between national correspondents and FAO staff by e-mail and regional/sub-regional review workshops form part of this review process. All country reports (including those prepared by FAO) are sent to the respective Head of Forestry for validation before finalization. The data are then aggregated at sub-regional, regional and global levels by the FRA team at FAO.
For the 56 countries and territories where no information was provided to FAO (mostly small islands states and territories), a report was prepared by FAO using existing information and a literature search. Four countries/territories did not provide information on the forest area in 1990 (Guam, Guyana, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territory). For these countries/territories, FAO estimated the 1990 area based on linear extrapolation of the figures provided for 2000 and 2005.
Data coverage on forest area as of 2005 is available from 228 countries and territories – the exception being the Marshall Islands where no quantitative estimate was available at the time of reporting. The lag between the reference year and the actual production of data series as well as the frequency of data production varies between countries.
Since information is available for virtually all countries and territories, regional and global estimates are produced by straight summation.
The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 will be launched in March 2008. New data and the final report of FRA 2010 will be published/available in 2010.