Tropical forest products play a vital role in the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of households.
Photo: Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR


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Ecosystems and humans are integrated parts of complex social-ecological systems. In these systems, forests and trees play a crucial role. Managed well, they offer a unique opportunity to contribute to all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. A call to shift from the current development scenario to one that ensures the sustainable use of our most important terrestrial natural capital.

The world is covered by approximately four billion hectares of forests, of which 93 per cent are natural forest and seven per cent plantations. Among the former, 33 per cent can be considered as intact (“primary”) forests and 60 per cent are naturally regenerated forests, i.e. forests under some form of management. Primary forests are of tremendous value for biodiversity, harbouring more than 80 per cent of the terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem services. Losing them would have unimaginable consequences.

An estimated 1.6 billion people depend on forests and trees outside forest resources for their livelihoods. More than 800 million people (30 per cent of the global rural population) live on 9.5 million square kilometres of agricultural lands (45 per cent of the total terrestrial area) with more than 10 per cent tree cover, 180 million on the 3.5 million square kilometres of agricultural lands with more than 30 per cent tree cover, and about 350 million within or near 40 million square kilometres of dense forests.

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