Global analysis of the protection status of the world’s forests

Author: Schmitt , C. Burgess, N., Coad, L., Belokurov, A., Besançon, C., Boisrobert, L., Campbell, A., Fish, L., Gliddon, D., Humphries, K., Kapos, V., Loucks, C., Lysenko, I., Miles, L., Mills, C., Minnemeyer, S., Pistorius, T., Ravilious, C., Steininger, M., Winkel, G.
Date Published: January 2009

Biological Conservation 142 (10)

This study presents a global analysis of forest cover and forest protection. An updated Global Forest Map (using MODIS2005) provided a current assessment of forest cover within 20 natural forest types. This map was overlaid onto WWF realms and ecoregions to gain additional biogeographic information on forest distribution. Using the 2008 World Database on Protected Areas, percentage forest cover protection was calculated globally, within forest types, realms and ecoregions, and within selected areas of global conservation importance. At the 10% tree cover threshold, global forest cover was 39 million km2. Of this, 7.7% fell within protected areas under IUCN management categories I–IV. With the inclusion of IUCN categories V and VI, the level of global forest protection increased to 13.5%. Percentage forest protection (IUCN I–IV) varied greatly between realms from 5.5% (Palearctic) to 13.4% (Australasia), and for forest types from 3.2% (temperate freshwater swamp forest) to 28% (temperate broadleaf evergreen forest). Median protection of forest cover in 670 ecoregions (forest above a specified threshold) was 5.9% (IUCN I–IV); at IUCN I–VI, 46% of the ecoregions had less than 10% forest protection. Considering their biodiversity importance, forest protection within global priority areas was insufficient, e.g., median protection of 8.4% in biodiversity hotspots (IUCN I–IV). Results have policy relevance in terms of the target of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), reconfirmed in 2008, to effectively conserve “at least 10% of each of the world’s forest types”. Regular updates of these analyses would allow progress towards achieving that target to be monitored.