While ‘sustainability’ is in everyone’s mouth – from academia to politics – few are aware that the term was originally shaped in relation to the early days of modern forestry: In the early 18th century, Hans Carl von Carlowitz coined the German word ‘Nachhaltigkeit’ which in a simplified way meant to ensure that enough trees were replanted to ensure the long-term existence of wood supplies (from where the term found its way into its broader meaning that we use it for today). While wood has for a long time been an important resource, it todays is also an important global trade product. In 2007 the FAO stated that “over the last 20 years international trade of forest products […] increased from US$60 billion to US$257 billion, an average annual growth of 6.6%.”
The following cartograms show different aspects related to forestry, including the production of wood for economic activity, the consumption of wood and wood-related products (such as paper), as well as global exports and imports of this (using data for 2011 by FAOstat):
These maps of course do not represent the global distribution of forests, but only the global picture of commercial activity related to forestry. Back in 2011 I mapped the global distribution of forests in each country in 2005 in collaboration with the the Forest Service of the USDA which is shown in the following map (the full map series including maps of change and more details about these maps can be found on this page):
In 2005, the total amount of forests worldwide was just under 4 billion hectares. This is equal to about 30 percent of the land area on Earth. If every person on Earth were given an equal piece of forest, each person would have 0.62 of a hectare, which is about the size of a football field
A more detailed picture of the global forest distribution can also be found in the January edition of Geographical Magazine published by the RGS to which I contributed a gridded cartogram of the global forest distribution from my PhD research.