Forests, jungles, woods & their trees

Forest conservation means protecting important habitats and using forests' renewable resources wisely. If we look after forests, they will regulate the climate and provide resources we all need.

Forests in Numbers

  • Forests cover 31% of total land area.
     
  • The livelihoods of 1.6 billion people depend on forests.
     
  • Forests provide a home to more than 300 million people worldwide.
     
  • The total global trade in forest products was valued at around $379 billion in 2005.
     
  • Forests are home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity.
Button link to pop-over featurette. / ©: WWF / Skiprock
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Life in a forest: the bigger picture

If asked to define a forest, most of us will straightaway think of trees.

While it is true that trees dominate - they are the biggest organisms present there and there are many of them - a forest is in fact a community of not just plants and animals, but of micro-organisms as well.

Throw into the mix the non-living, abiotic components like soil, climate and water, and take in the complex interrelationships among the organisms and the environment, and we are closer to an actual understanding of this ecosystem.

Over two-thirds of known terrestrial species


With one third of the  Earth's surface is covered with forests it is no surprise that they are among the most notable storehouses of biological diversity on the planet. Forests house over two-thirds of known terrestrial species, including the largest share of threatened species.

Forests for people

Forests have a variety of uses to humans, including wood from trees, nutrition from animals, grazing, recreation, medicinal plants and so on.

At the present time, conservationists are still arguing about a 'technical' definition of a forest. According to The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), a forest does not stop being a forest just because the trees are gone.

While that may be so, it is important to understand how the disappearing green cover and the resultant threat to habitats and to human life fits into the bigger picture of life on the planet.

The forest ecosystem

The forest is a complex ecosystem - a biological system with distinct, myriad interrelationships of the living part of the environment (plants, animals and micro-organisms) to each other and to the non-living, inorganic or abiotic parts (soil, climate, water, organic debris, rocks).

It is an intricate and complex web - fragile but at the same time holding the ecosystem together.

Forest variety and distribution

Forests come in all sizes and types - from the northern taiga to the scrub forests of arid regions to the rainforests of the humid tropics.

They are found on moving glaciers, in fresh and salt water, on arctic mountain slopes. They do not occur in isolation from the rest of the landscape. The type of forest in a given area depends on many elements, including climate, soil, water source, rainfall patterns, seed sources and human influence.

The complex ecological relationships involving forests could allow humans to benefit from them in a variety of ways. However, a deeper understanding of these relationships is crucial for the development of effective, sustainable forest management and policy options.

WWF's work

WWF has been involved in conservation of forests since its launch 50 years ago. Today work is focused on preserving remaining forests and working in partnership to promote sustainable forestry.

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Infographic showing major global exporters and importers of wood / ©: WWF / GOOD / SectionDesign
In this high-tech world of metal and plastic, it's easy to forget that many things are still made with good, old-fashioned wood. Countries with lots of forest stand to benefit from the lucrative timber trade, but at what cost to their ecological footprint? Here are five major timber exporters, and who is buying their wood.
© WWF / GOOD / SectionDesign
The Global Timber Trade, Who's Buying, Who's Selling?
In this high-tech world of metal and plastic, it's easy to forget that many things are still made with good, old-fashioned wood. Countries with lots of forest stand to benefit from the lucrative timber trade, but at what cost to their ecological footprint? Here are 5 major timber exporters, and who is buying their wood.
  •  / ©: (c) WWF
  •  / ©: WWF-Canon / André BÄRTSCHI

Did you know?

    • The five most forest-rich countries are the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the USA and China, and they account for more than half of the total forest area.
    • Ten countries or areas have no forest at all and an additional 54 have forest on less than 10% of their total land area.

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