Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss


This post is by Govind Bhutada from Visual Capitalist


The following content is sponsored by Carbon Streaming Corporation.

drivers of forest loss

The Briefing

  • On average, the world loses more than 20 million hectares of forests annually.
  • Agriculture and commodity-driven deforestation each account for approximately a quarter of annual forest loss.

Visualizing the Five Drivers of Forest Loss

The world has lost one-third of its forests since the ice age, and today, approximately 15 billion trees are cut down annually.

Forests are wellsprings of biodiversity and an essential buffer against climate change, absorbing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Yet, forest loss continues to grow.

The above infographic sponsored by Carbon Streaming Corporation highlights the five primary drivers behind forest loss.

Deforestation vs. Degradation

‘Forest loss’ is a broad term that captures the impacts of both permanent deforestation and forest degradation. There is an important distinction between the two:

  • Permanent deforestation: Refers to the complete removal of trees or conversion of forests to another land use (like buildings), where forests cannot regrow.
  • Forest degradation: Refers to a reduction in the density of trees in the area without a change in land use. Forests are expected to regrow.

Forest degradation accounts for over 70% or 15 million hectares of annual forest loss. The other 30% of lost forests are permanently deforested.

Driving factorCategoryAverage annual forest loss (2001-2015, million hectares)
Commodity-driven deforestationPermanent deforestation5.7
UrbanizationPermanent deforestation0.1
Forestry productsForest degradation5.4
Shifting agricultureForest degradation5
WildfiresForest degradation4.8
TotalN/A (Read more...)