The worlds forests range from tropical forests found between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, temperate deciduous forests found largely in the Northern hemisphere and montane coniferous forests found in the world’s temperate regions. In the past 50 years, around half of the world’s original forests have been destroyed, leading to many species becoming threatened and many indigenous communities livelihoods being put at risk.
Forests are vital for us to survive as they absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and release oxygen into the atmosphere.
The 10 largest forests in the world need to be preserved now, before it is too late. The below list of forests in order of their size has been complied using statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2005.
478 million hectares: Brazil is home to the world’s largest tropical forest, the Amazon rainforest which accounts for over half of the earth’s remaining rainforests. The Amazon contains 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, which helps stabilise the earths climate and also produces 20% of the earths oxygen through converting carbon dioxide to oxygen. The Atlantic forest is also found in Brazil, on the coastline and stretches from Brazil to Paraguay and Argentina. However, only 7% of the forest remains intact which is threatening the lives of thousands of species including jaguars, tapirs and howler monkeys.
809 million hectares: The vast forests of Russia stretch from Karelia near Finland to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s far east and the forests contain 50% of the world’s resources of coniferous wood. The forests of Russia are home to countless species including Siberian snow leopards and Siberian tigers and 10% of all wild tigers are found in the country. 260,000 square kilometres of forests are managed by the Forest Stewardship Council, which helps ensure sustainable logging and 430,000 sq km of land is under Russian government protection. Illegal harvesting of trees is estimated to account for between 20-30% of all logging within Russia.
303 million hectares: Since colonists started settling in the USA in the 1600's, approximately 121.405 million hectares of forest have been cleared mostly for agriculture, settlement building and timber. 155.399 million hectares of forest cover the eastern USA, 74% of these forests are broadleaf and 83% are owned privately. In the western part of the country, 147.710 million hectares of forests,78% of which are coniferous, are 58% publicly owned. The publicly owned forests are maintained as national parks, wildlife protection zones and recreation grounds by the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
310 million hectares: Nearly half of Canada’s land surface is covered by trees and forests which help purify water, stabilise soil and cycle nutrients according to the Canadian Forest Service. An estimated two-thirds of Canada’s 140,000 species of plants and animals reside in the forests which are made up of 180 different tree species. 94% of the forests are publicly owned, with the other 6% being held by private landowners. 20% of the world’s freshwater is found in these forests, an equal percentage to the amount found in the Amazon rainforest.
197 million hectares: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that forest and timber plantations increased in size in the country from 157 million hectares in 1990 to 197 million by 2005. Between 2000 and 2010 China's forest cover increased at an annual rate of 1.6%. However, as much as half of China's timber is imported, mainly from tropical rainforests like the Amazon which puts enormous pressure on tropical ecosystems. 70% of China's forests are owned by the state and there are a total of 131 forest bureaus in the country.
164 million hectares: The native forests of Australia are made up primarily of eucalyptus (78%), acacia (7%) and melaleucas (5%). These forests are generally located in areas with more than 500 millimetres of rainfall per year and outside the interior of the country, which is arid and dry. Wildfires are a major threat to forests in Australia and foresters have to implement strategies for fire prevention, suppression and detection in order to minimise forest fire damage.
134 million hectares: The Congo basin rainforest is home to over 10,000 plant species, 700 fish species, 400 mammals including the pygmy chimpanzee and 1,000 species of bird. Forests cover 58.9% of the countries land, over 828,812 square kilometres (515,000 square miles). 8% of the countries forests are currently under protection however, the DRC's government plans to expand this to 10-15% in the future.
88 million hectares: Indonesia's rich forests are home to 38,000 species of plant, 1,531 species of bird, 515 species of mammal, 270 species of amphibian and 35 species of primate including the orangutan and the proboscis monkey. The countries forests once covered 84% of the land but the last remaining forests are now fragmented by roads and destroyed to make way for palm oil, pulp and eucalyptus plantations. The forests of Sulawesi have been almost completely destroyed while the forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan have been severely depleted.
68 million hectares: WWF estimate that 20.64% of India's territory is covered in forest from the Himalayan subtropical pine forests to the mangrove forests of eastern India. The forests are home to 45,000 plant species and 81,000 animal species including the Bengal tiger and Indian elephant. The two major forest areas of India are the Western Ghats, found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the greater Assam region in the north-east. With India's rapidly growing economy, more pressure is being placed on forest resources and the remaining forests are becoming fragmented.
69 million hectares: Forests, 80% of which are primary forests, cover approximately 50% of Peru's territory and the country contains an astounding 10% of the world's flora and fauna including 25,000 plant species. 1,300 indigenous communities live in 12 million hectares of Peru's forests, 9 million of which are set aside as indigenous territory. The UN Forest and Agriculture Organization estimates that 224,000 to 300,000 hectares of forest a year are deforested, a far lower rate in comparison to neighbouring Latin American countries.