World Deforestation Status

Introduction: What is Deforestation?

Deforestation or forest degradation refers to the cutting down of trees. As more than 30 percent of the world is covered by trees, mass logging of trees is causing forests to shrink in large amounts. That is a reason for concern because such large-scale deforestation is leading to an imbalance in ecosystems around the world.

Deforestation is a major issue of our time and we need to take serious note of it. The tutorial discusses some of the statistics that are eye-opening in nature about deforestation and its effects. One can understand from the tutorial what deforestation is, and why it should be taken care of at the earliest. The effects on rainforests and tropical tree converse have also been provided in the tutorial.

Image 1: Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest

Causes of Deforestation

According to World Resources Institute, deforestation increased by 12% in the world in 2020. Even when the COVID pandemic was on, deforestation did not stop. In the last year, more forest cover and forest resources were lost than in the whole preceding decade. Now the main question is why people chop down primary forests.

Subsistence Agriculture

In America and many other parts of the world, forests are primarily chopped down for subsistence agriculture which refers to cutting down trees to build homes and collect grass pastures for agriculture and livestock. In these cases, just enough forest is chopped so that the needs can be met. The practice is carried on still now and according to estimates, the US has lost more than 75% of its virgin forests due to subsistence agriculture since 1600.

Housing and Livestock

Forests are still cut down for housing and livestock reasons and the major reason of concern is that deforestation is now taking place in the world’s most sensitive areas in developing nations, such as the Congo basin, the Amazon rainforests, and the equatorial jungles of Indonesia.

While deforestation can be accomplished by a handful of local workers working with hand tools, large-scale worldwide forest cover loss is done by heavy machinery. Many people think that a large part of deforestation is caused by the paper industry, but it is just a myth. Most of the resources required for the paper industry come from recycled resources which are in place due to government pressures.

Image 2: Amazon Forest burning to open space for pasture


Wildfires are also a major reason for forest degradation. Wildfires usually start with a controlled fire to clear the required areas for farming but the process often goes out of control to spread to many hundred hectares of land in temperate regions.

Wildfires are a major reason for pollution. According to an estimate, 11% of all Carbon dioxide emissions in the world come from wildfires. This means that wildfires affect the environment in two ways - it degrades the forest cover and pollutes the air as well.

At times, the easiest way for farmers to clear land for cattle ranching, soy crops, and palm oil is by setting fire to wild forests. Although such fires start in a controlled manner in the beginning, they often go out of control. As a result, thousands of hectares of forest land are degraded and it causes an irreversible emission of carbon dioxide as well. Therefore, deforestation is a direct threat to human health too.

Global Deforestation Statistics

  • An area of 4.06 billion hectares or 31% of the land cover of the world is covered by forests.

  • The land that is protected from deforestation contains only 18% of these land covers.

  • More than 420 million hectares of forest cover have been lost since 1990.

  • An average of 15.5 million hectares of land have been lost on average every year since 1990.

  • In the period 2010 to 2015, about 12 million hectares of forests were degraded every year which shows a decline of 22.58% compared to the 1990 to 2010 period.

  • In the period of 2010 to 2015, 10 million hectares of land had been deforested on average which showed a decline of 35.48 % compared to the 1990 to 2000 period and a decline of 16.67% compared to the 2010 to 2015 period.

  • 2,400 trees are cut down in the world every minute.

  • By the time you complete reading this sentence, another three hectares of forest land would disappear from the earth.

  • In 2020, 25.8 million hectares of forests were lost which is double the amount of 2001.

  • Burning of tropical rainforests is accounted for 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

  • The greenhouse gas emissions were seriously underestimated before 2019.

  • A forest the size of a football field is cut down every second in the world.

  • 14,800 square miles or roughly the size of Switzerland is the area of forest cover that is cut down every year.

  • In 2019, forest land estimated to be the size of 9 million acres was degraded.

  • $2 to $4.5 trillion losses due to biodiversity losses occurs every year due to deforestation.

  • In the period 1990 to 2020, 4.2% of the world’s tree cover loss occurred.

  • Only 10% of the world’s rainforests may be left by 2030.

  • Agriculture is the main reason for the tropical rainforest loss. It accounts for 80% loss of tropical rainforests.

  • In 2020, 12 million hectares of tropical tree covers were lost.

  • 31% of modern diseases are due to deforestation.

  • Due to deforestation and natural habitat loss, 137 different species of animals, plants, and birds are lost every single day in the world.

  • Nearly 1,400 species of trees are listed as critically endangered due to the threat of deforestation.

  • 90% of extremely poor people depend on forests for their survival.

  • More than 86 million green jobs are due to global forest regions.

  • 40% of tropical deforestation occurring between 2000 and 2010 was due to commercial agriculture, such as cattle ranching or palm oil plantations.

  • Brazil increased greenhouse gas emissions by 9% in 2021 despite it was in a recession economically.

  • If the current rate prevails, all rainforests in the world will be gone within 77 years.

  • The Amazon rainforest absorbs less Carbon dioxide than what it emits now.

  • 25% of drugs (western drugs) come from rainforest ingredients.

  • 25% of carcinogenic drugs come from rainforests.

  • 75% of rainforests are now unable to cope with wildfires and droughts.


Deforestation is a major reason of concern for us because it threatens the existence of all living species in the world. All living species are directly dependent on forests for food and oxygen and their loss is costly for us. We must create awareness and stop deforestation immediately to survive well for a long time to come. That is why learning about the world's deforestation status is important.


Qns 1. What size of forest cover is lost due to deforestation every year?

Ans. 14,800 square miles or roughly the size of Switzerland is the area of forest cover that is cut down every year.

Qns 2. How much is the cost of deforestation and biodiversity loss that takes place every year?

Ans. $2 to $4.5 trillion losses due to biodiversity losses occurs every year due to deforestation.

Qns 3. At the current rate of deforestation, how much rainforests will be left by 2030?

Ans. Only 10% of the world’s rainforests may be left by 2030 if the current rate of deforestation continues.