A forest is an ecosystem that houses much of the world’s animal and plant life. They cover a major part of the Earth’s land surface and also contribute important elements to the atmosphere. Here are a few interesting facts about forests.
- Forests cover 31% of the land surface of the globe:
- There are over 60,000 different tree species
- 80% of all living organisms’ live in forests
- 2/3rd of all forests are found in just 10 countries:
- Forests supply much of the Oxygen we the planet needs to survive
- The Amazon Basin is the largest forest in existence
- Over 300 million people live in the forest:
Forests cover 31% of the land surface of the globe:
Forests cover just under 1/3rd of the entire land surface of the globe. That equals roughly 4.06 billion hectares. Despite the fact that forests cover a large part of the globe, they are mainly in just a few countries.
One-third of the total forest area is considered a primary forest, which means that they have not been significantly disturbed by human activity. Deforestation is a major concern because it threatens the vitality of our planet.
It is estimated that over 400 million hectares of forest land have been lost since the 1990s, and that number continues to grow. Native communities rely on the forest for food, shelter, energy, medicine, and money.
Even wealthier countries like the United States rely on forest life for many of those benefits and will suffer if it is not protected. Forests also help prevent climate change by releasing important chemical compounds into the atmosphere.
They are a critical component of the world’s natural ecosystem and must be protected so that life as we know it may continue on this planet.
There are over 60,000 different tree species
According to the Global Tree Search database, there are 60,082 tree species in existence. Of those tree species, nearly half (around 45% to be exact) belong to just 10 tree families.
About 58% of tree species are specific to a particular environment or community. As of 2019, 20,334 tree species have been included on the IUCN List of endangered species. Around 1400 of those tree species are considered to be critically threatened and require immediate conservation efforts.
Some of the most common tree species found in forests include the Red Maple (Acer Rubrum), Loblolly Pine (Pinus Taeda), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Menziesii), and the Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharum), among many others.
But there are forests all over the world, and each has its unique habitats and plant life. Trees can either be classified as deciduous or coniferous. A deciduous tree is one that has leaves that bloom in the spring and fall off in the winter.
Coniferous trees (also known as evergreen trees) have needles instead of leaves and maintain their foliage year-round.
80% of all living organisms’ live in forests
It’s estimated that approximately 80% of the earth’s plant and animal life live in forests. This figure is rapidly changing due to deforestation and the natural shifts of biodiversity on Earth.
But a major portion of the Earth’s natural species is found in forest areas. Areas like the Amazon Rain Forrest in South America are home to millions of plant and animal species, and about 60% of total plant-life is found in tropical forests.
It’s estimated that forests provide habitats for about 5000 amphibian species, 7500 bird species, and 3700 mammal species. In addition to these vertebrate species, forests also provide a habitat for a large portion of the fungi population and invertebrate species like insects.
It’s a bit harder for scientists to track and account for these types of organisms, but it’s been estimated that there are between 2.2 million and 3.8 million different fungal species and between 5 million and 10 million insect species.
Each unique species contributes something important to the overall ecosystem and is necessary for the health and function of the planet. Forrest’s provide a necessary natural habitat for these species to exist free from the influence of human life.
That’s why it’s so important for these areas to be conserved and protected.
2/3rd of all forests are found in just 10 countries:
Even though forests cover nearly 1/3rd of the Earth’s land surface, the majority of that acreage is contained in just a handful of countries. 10 countries claim about 2/3rds of the Earth’s forests.
Those countries include Russia, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, and Peru. Russia has the largest expanse of forest area at about 815 million hectares, Brazil is second at about 497 million hectares, and Canada is third with 347 million hectares.
The US ranks fourth with about 310 hectares of forest, which is roughly 7.6% of the world total. However, Brazil is number one in terms of unique tree species, with over 9,000 unique species of trees found in the country.
The rest of the world has about 1375 million hectares, which is about 33.9% of the total percentage of the Earth’s forest area. This means that the responsibilities of the conservation efforts of the Earth fall on the shoulders of a few countries because so much natural acreage is contained in just a handful of places.
Forests supply much of the Oxygen we the planet needs to survive
Trees and other plant life produce the Oxygen we need to breathe through a process called photosynthesis. The same way humans need to eat certain foods to survive, plants must take in certain chemical compounds to perform their natural processes.
Plants absorb water (H20) and carbon dioxide (C02) from the air and soil and use it to produce their own food. They then release Oxygen back into the atmosphere that humans and other organisms need to breathe and survive.
With so much of the Earth’s plant life contained in forests, much of the Oxygen that we need to survive is produced by forests. That’s why protecting these natural habitats is so vital, because they supply not only helpful resources like food and lumber but essential compounds like Oxygen.
In addition to producing Oxygen, forests also regulate the local climate by contributing to the water cycle. Plants soak up water from the atmosphere and use it to make Oxygen, which has an impact on the natural climate of a region.
Therefore, forests are not only an important ecosystem for plants and wildlife. They contribute vital services that are necessary for human life to exist on the planet, as well.
The Amazon Basin is the largest forest in existence
The amazon rain forest is the largest tropical rainforest in existence and covers about 2.72 million square miles of land. It’s larger than the second and third largest rain forests combined -which are found in the Congo and Indonesia.
The Amazon Rain forest covers parts of Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. It covers roughly 40% of Brazil’s total area, which is the 5th largest country in the world by square footage.
It’s estimated to contain over 16,000 tree species and 390 billion individual trees. It is also home to the Amazon River, the largest river in the world, by far. The Amazon Rain Forrest is one of the most fascinating and unique natural habitats in existence.
It houses millions of species of plant, insect, and animal life, including many species that have yet to be discovered. The Amazon Rain forest faces a major threat of deforestation because it is so rich in natural resources.
However, deforestation in the area has been on the decline since 2004, thanks to improved laws and advocacy from environmental groups.
Over 300 million people live in the forest:
It’s estimated that approximately 300 million people live in forests, and 1.6 billion depend on them for their livelihood. In many countries, like Brazil and Indonesia, where forests cover a major part of the country, indigenous people and others who have made their homes in the area rely on forests for food, shelter, and water.
They supply important natural resources that many populations depend on to survive, including wood, fruit, and livestock. Forests support many local economies in developing countries where access to these resources is not as readily available as in countries like the United States.
Many of these forest-dwelling people include indigenous tribes like the Yanomami in South America or the Pygmies in central Africa. Human beings have lived in forests for centuries, and that tradition continues to this day in many countries across the globe.
Therefore, deforestation impacts not only the plant and animal life that made a home in the forest, but it also impacts the lives of billions of native people who rely on forests for their natural benefits. That’s why it’s so important for humans to protect forests from being reduced or destroyed.