Five forest figures for the International Day of Forests

This is part of a series of blogs focussed on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.


Click here to view interactive version of map

A recent study based on satellite data estimates that there are 3 trillion trees on Earth – that’s over 400 trees per person. That also means that there are more trees on Earth than stars in the Milky Way.

Forests are key to climate, water, health and livelihoods, and to mark the International Day of Forests, we’ve taken a look at the upcoming World Development Indicators 2016, and highlighted some trends in how forest cover has changed in the last 25 years.

We’ve lost 1.3 million square kilometers of forests since 1990 – an area larger than South Africa


Forests cover a third of the world’s land. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Earth’s forest area was about 50 million square kilometers.  This has since shrunk to less than 40 million square kilometers.  Most of this decline was caused by the growing demand for forest and paper products, as well as for agricultural land use.

In the last 25 years, the world’s forests shrank by 1.3 million square kilometers. Which means that since 1990 the world’s lost more forest area than the size of South Africa. Another way of thinking about it: since 1990, we’ve lost the equivalent of 1,000 football fields of forests every hour.  Or about 800 soccer pitches an hour if that’s your thing.


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