The UN reports that forests cover about 31% of Earth’s land. These ecosystems are vital, absorbing roughly 15.6 billion tonnes of CO₂ annually.
Moreover, the majority of this green expanse exists in Russia and Canada’s forests, South America’s Amazon rainforest, and China’s forests. Renowned for carbon sequestration, these woods not only purify air and filter water but also defend against erosion and buffer against climate change.
Asia showcases some of the world’s most biodiverse and lush green landscapes. From Russia’s expansive boreal forests to China’s broad-leaved forests and Indonesia’s mangrove forests, the continent exudes remarkable natural beauty.
Russia alone possesses more than a fifth of the world’s trees, covering an impressive 815 million hectares, even surpassing the Amazon’s canopy. While most of Russia’s forests are situated in Asia, they also extend into Europe.
China has made significant strides in increasing its forest cover. With nearly 220 million hectares of forested area, it ranks fifth globally in terms of greenery. In just three decades, China has expanded its forest cover from 157 million hectares to 23.4% of its land, all thanks to dedicated greening efforts.
Renowned for its incredible biodiversity, Indonesia faces forest loss. Despite having a vast forest canopy of 92 million hectares and hosting 10-15% of the world’s known plants, mammals, and birds, the country lost 74 million hectares of rainforest over the past 50 years due to logging, fires, and degradation.
India, with its diverse landscapes, covers around 72 million hectares of forest area. From the rainforests along the Himalayas in the northeast to the montane rainforests of the South Western Ghats and the coastal mangrove forests, India’s forests showcase a rich tapestry of natural wonders.
In South America, Brazil proudly claims the world’s second-largest forest cover, spanning 497 million hectares. The majority of this expansive forest lies within the renowned Amazon rainforest, often called “the lungs of the planet.”
The Amazon rainforest isn’t just vast; it’s incredibly biodiverse. About 10% of the world’s biodiversity resides here, hosting over three million wildlife species and more than 2,500 tree species.
Across the Atlantic, in Central Africa, stretch the Congolian rainforests, tracing the Congo River and its tributaries. These tropical moist broadleaf forests, spanning nine countries, stand out as one of the world’s rare regions absorbing more carbon dioxide than they emit.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) encompasses the largest part of the Congolian rainforests, with 126 million hectares of forest. This accounts for about 60% of lowland forest cover in Central Africa.
When it comes to North America, Canada, the United States, and Mexico significantly contribute to global forest cover, totaling 723 million hectares.
Canada, the Great White North, features vast stretches of pine and fir trees. With a forest cover of 347 million hectares, it ranks third globally in greenery. About 40% of Canada’s land is forested, representing 9% of global coverage. Notably, Canada’s boreal forests act as exceptional carbon sinks, storing twice the carbon of tropical forests per unit and playing a crucial role in global carbon regulation.
The United States encompasses 8% of the world’s forests, spread across 310 million hectares. Its diverse range of forests includes boreal forests in Alaska, pine plantations in the South, deciduous forests in the Eastern U.S., and dry coniferous forests in the West. The country also hosts temperate rainforests along the West Coast and tropical rainforests in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. This forest variety contributes significantly to the continent’s status as a major global carbon sink.
Despite positive examples set by countries like China, which demonstrate progress in forest restoration, the global perspective is less optimistic. University of Maryland data, mapped by Adam Symington, illuminates forest cover changes from 2000 to 2021.
Alarmingly, the world has experienced a loss of over 104 million hectares of pristine and intact forest landscapes since 2000, marking a substantial global decline in forested areas. A troubling instance is the Amazon rainforest, where 2020 alone witnessed the destruction of over 10,000 square kilometers, primarily due to road development and human activities.