World Bank: Which countries have the largest forests?

9:25 18.05.2024 •

Since the last ice age, the Earth’s forest cover has fallen by 20 million km² or 2 billion hectares. Half of the loss occurred since the year 1900 due to expanding agriculture and industrialization.

Now forests cover about 30% of the Earth’s land, about 40 million km², distributed unevenly across the globe.

We visualize the top 15 countries with the largest forests, measured in square kilometers. Data for this visualization and article comes from the World Bank, using data for 2021 that was last updated in October 2023.

Predictably, the largest country in the world also has the biggest forest area. Nearly 50% of Russia is forest, measuring roughly 8 million km². This is bigger than the total land area of every other country in the world — with the exception of China, the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Australia.

It also means one-fifth of the world’s entire forested area is in Russia.

Most of Russia’s forests are boreal, to survive the colder, drier climes in the country, and are made up of deciduous and coniferous tree species including larch, pine, spruce, and oak.

At second place, Brazil has nearly 5 million km² of forest cover (about 12% of the world’s forests), thanks to almost two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest inside its borders. For context, Brazil’s forested area is almost twice the size of Saudi Arabia, the 12th largest country in the world.

The Amazon also contributes significantly to Peru’s forest cover (ranked 10th on this list) along with Colombia (13th) Bolivia (14th) and Venezuela (15th).

Canada and the U.S., rank third and fourth with roughly the same forest cover — 3 million km2 — with several forests on both coasts extending across their shared border.

China rounds out the top five, its forests covering slightly more than 2 million km².

Together the top five countries account for more than half of the world’s forests.

When taking in the top 10, which adds in forest cover from Australia, the DRC, Indonesia, India, and Peru, this grows to slightly more than two-third’s of the world’s forests. Expanding the ranks to the top 20 will then accounts for 80% of the Earth’s total forest cover.

Data sources: World Bank data is for 2021, and was last updated in October 2023.


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