A forest is an area of land dominated by trees.[1] Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing, and ecological function.[2][3][4] The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines a forest as, “Land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban use.”[5] Using this definition, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020) found that forests covered 4.06 billion hectares (10.0 billion acres; 40.6 million square kilometres; 15.7 million square miles), or approximately 31 percent of the world’s land area in 2020. As of 2010, about 9.7 billion people lived in forests globally; they make up roughly half of the terrestrial human population.[6][7][8]

Forests are the dominant terrestrial ecosystem of Earth, and are distributed around the globe.[9][10][11] Forests account for 75% of the gross primary production of the Earth’s biosphere, and contain 80% of the Earth’s plant biomass.[12] The total area of all forests is just over 730 million km2 (280 million square miles), or just over 41% of the land area on Earth. Tropical forests are typically tropical moist broadleaf forests. There also are tropical forests, tropicaldry broadleaf forests, Mediterranean forests, and subtropical coniferous forests. Temperate broadleaf forests are temperate broadleaf forest,[13] which are coniferous forested biomes of the Holarctic kingdom (disputed), within which grow deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in winter). Central Europe is dominated by the broadleaf forest of the Vienna forest variety (Pinus beccarii; 10 to 15 m high), while Russia has large areas of boreal mixed deciduous-broadleaf forests. Southern Asia has montane mixed coniferous and deciduous forests.
Tropical forests cover much of the globe, with 12% of the world’s land area covered by tropical forest.[14] Tropical forests have been called the “world’s largest pharmacy”, because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered within them.[15] Over 90% of potential pharmaceutical compounds inside plants from the Amazon rainforest have yet to be studied,[16] and likely also exist in Indonesia’s rainforests, Sumatra and New Guinea, and Madagascar. A single tree species, Magnolia grandiflora, has been reported to contain antioxidants for all branches of biomedical research.

The majority of forests worldwide are managed by resource management, e.g., afforestation, reforestation, re-growth, and planting on degraded land. These resources are used for food production, materials and energy creation. Forests may be harvested for bioproducts including wood fiber and the oils extracted from seeds and other parts of plants. Forests can also support a small number of commercially valuable plant species that have been introduced by humans as well as a large number of non-targeted species. The products from these resources are used to make consumer items like paper, houses, furniture, clothing, perfume and cosmetics. Typically, the removal of trees for forestry is followed by the growth of a replacement crop (e.g., trees grown for wood are often subsequently grown for paper pulp).

Non-commercial values may be very important for forest conservation. These include spiritual values (e.g., sacred groves), ecological values (e.g., protecting watersheds), recreational values (hunting and fishing), esthetic values (e.g., providing scenery or just enjoyment of an outing in nature) etc.[citation needed]
The most common forest type worldwide is tropical rainforest. Tropical rainforests occur in areas of high annual precipitation, in the tropics and subtropics. The majority of tropical rainforests in the world occur in Latin America. Tropical dry forest is located mostly in Australia, although there are significant areas in Indonesia, Madagscar and Brazil.

Tropical moist forest occurs along small sections of the equator and also on small islands scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean. There are also temperate rainforests, temperate deciduous forest, temperate coniferous forest and boreal forests. Temperate deciduous forests cover broad Central Europe between latitudes 40°N to 60°N while North America lies between latitudes 45°N to 55°N. Boreal forests occur in the Northern Hemisphere between latitudes 62°N to 66°N, in high mountains and tundra, including Alaska.
The big forest biomes are coniferous forests (also called “coniferous forests” or “ponderosa pine forests”), tropical rainforests, temperate coniferous forests (Taiga), montane monsoon forests, tropical moist broadleaf forest (tropical rainforest), sub-alpine coniferous forest (sub-alpine fir forest) and alpine heath.

While many of the world’s forests are tropical rainforests, temperate broadleaf and mixed dipterocarp forests also exist.

The most significant forest biomes in terms of global forest cover are boreal forests, temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests, tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, rainforests of the wet tropics of Queensland are also significant.

Between 1990 and 2015 the world lost 2.24 million square kilometers (890,000 square miles) of forest cover or 5.2 percent, according to Global Forest Watch.[17] The biggest losses occurred in Russia (20.1 percent), Brazil (15.7 percent) and Canada (15 percent). The biggest gains were in south eastern Australia (15.1 percent), the Amazon Basin (13.5 percent), Central Africa (12.8 percent), Indonesia (11.4 percent) and Venezuela (10.2 percent).[18]

The most significant forest biomes in terms of global forest cover are boreal forests, temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests, tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, rainforests of the wet tropics of Queensland are also significant.

Most countries have difficultly defining which rainforest they actually have as a result of intense lobbying by companies who seek to exploit the resources of these areas as well as lack of governmental oversight.

There are two main types of forest management:

Proper forest management has a variety of benefits, reducing the risk of fire and disease, and increasing habitat diversity. It is also necessary for maintaining the ecological processes vital to sustaining our ecosystems. These processes include soil formation, water purification and recycling as well as providing habitat for plants and animals.[19]
The most important economic values of forests include production of timber and non-timber products such as fruits, nuts, resins or gums, rubber, rattan and other fibers; fish and wildlife habitats; preservation of water quality; recreation including hunting and fishing; food for domestic animals; carbon storage in forests can help mitigate climate change by reducing dependence on fossil fuels. In many areas, forests are an important source of livelihoods, both for local people and for subsistence agriculturalists.

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