Forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet. They help people thrive and survive by, for example, purifying water and air and providing people with jobs; some 13.2 million people across the world have a job in the forest sector and another 41 million have a job that is related to the sector. Many animals also rely on forests. Eighty percent of the world's land-based species, such as elephants and rhinos, live in forests. Forests also play a critical role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink—soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing changes in climate patterns.
But forests around the world are under threat, jeopardizing these benefits. The threats manifest themselves in the form of deforestation and forest degradation. The main cause of deforestation is agriculture (poorly planned infrastructure is emerging as a big threat too) and the main cause of forest degradation is illegal logging. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests annually, equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute.
Deforestation is a particular concern in tropical rain forests because these forests are home to much of the world’s biodiversity. For example, in the Amazon around 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching. Deforestation in this region is particularly rampant near more populated areas, roads and rivers, but even remote areas have been encroached upon when valuable mahogany, gold, and oil are discovered.
WWF has been working to protect forests for more than 50 years. WWF works with governments, companies, communities and other stakeholders to promote certification for responsible forest management practices, combat illegal logging, reform trade policies, protect forested areas, and more.