15.1.1 Forested Area as a Proportion of Total Land Area
Target 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Custodian Organization: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Tier Classification: Tier II
To facilitate the implementation of the global indicator framework, all indicators are classified by the IAEG-SDGs (Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators) into three tiers on the basis of their level of methodological development and the availability of data at the global level, as follows:
Tier I: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries for at least 50 per cent of countries and of the population in every region where the indicator is relevant.
Tier II: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries.
Tier III: No internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested.
Definition: Forest area as a proportion of total land area.
Concepts: In order to provide a precise definition of the indicator, it is crucial to provide a definition of “Forest” and “Total Land Area”.
According to the FAO definitions, Forest is defined as: “land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters 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”. More specifically:
- Forest is determined both by the presence of trees and the absence of other predominant land uses. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters.
- It includes areas with young trees that have not yet reached but which are expected to reach a canopy cover of at least 10 percent and tree height of 5 meters or more. It also includes areas that are temporarily unstocked due to clear-cutting as part of a forest management practice or natural disasters, and which are expected to be regenerated within 5 years. Local conditions may, in exceptional cases, justify that a longer time frame is used.
- It includes forest roads, firebreaks and other small open areas; forest in national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas such as those of specific environmental, scientific, historical, cultural or spiritual interest.
- It includes windbreaks, shelterbelts and corridors of trees with an area of more than 0.5 hectares and width of more than 20 meters.
- It includes abandoned shifting cultivation land with a regeneration of trees that have, or are expected to reach, a canopy cover of at least 10 percent and tree height of at least 5 meters.
- It includes areas with mangroves in tidal zones, regardless whether this area is classified as land area or not.
- It includes rubberwood, cork oak and Christmas tree plantations.
- It includes areas with bamboo and palms provided that land use, height and canopy cover criteria are met.
- It excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems, such as fruit tree plantations, oil palm plantations, olive orchards and agroforestry systems when crops are grown under tree cover.
Note: Some agroforestry systems such as the “Taungya” system where crops are grown only during the first years of the forest rotation should be classified as forest.
Total land area is the total surface area of a country less the area covered by inland waters, like major rivers and lakes.
Rationale: Forests fulfill a number of functions that are vital for humanity, including the provision of goods (wood and non-wood forest products) and services such as habitat for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, coastal protection and soil and water conservation.
The indicator provides a measure of the relative extent of forest in a country. The availability of accurate data on a country’s forest area is a key element for forest policy and planning within the context of sustainable development.
Changes in forest area reflect the demand for land for other uses and may help identify unsustainable practices in the forestry and agricultural sector.
Forest area as percentage of total land area may be used as a rough proxy for the extent to which the forests in a country are being conserved or restored, but it is only partly a measure for the extent to which they are sustainably managed.
The indicator was included among the indicators for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) (indicator 7.1 “Proportion of land covered by forest”).
Limitations: Assessment of forest area is carried out at infrequent intervals in many countries. Access to remote sensing imagery has improved in recent years, but remote sensing techniques have limitations. In particular there are limitations to assess land use (remote sensing primarily assesses land cover), and some slow changes such as forest regrowth cannot easily be observed with remote sensing techniques and require long time periods in order to detect. In addition, forest area with low canopy cover density (e.g. 10-30%) are difficult to detect with remote sensing techniques.
Data Source: Data for this indicator was primarily collected from the United Nations Statistics Division’s Open SDG Data Hub. National level data from the UN Statistics Division is compiled by the respective custodian for the SDG indicator, unless otherwise noted. To learn more about the data used in this portal, visit the about page.
Data is accurate as of October 31, 2018.
15.1.1 Forested Area as a Proportion of Total Land Area in the Sustainable Development Goals
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15. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
Forests cover 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface and in addition to providing food security and shelter, forests are key to combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous population. Thirteen million hectares of forests are being lost every year while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares.
Deforestation and desertification – caused by human activities and climate change – pose major challenges to sustainable development and have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the fight against poverty. Efforts are being made to manage forests and combat desertification.
Related 15.1.1 Forested Area as a Proportion of Total Land Area Targets
By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements