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Top 15 Countries with the largest Forests in the world
[Mar 1, 2024]

Since the last ice age, the Earth¡¯s forest cover has fallen by 20 million km2 or 2 billion hectares. Half of the loss occurred since the year 1900 due to expanding agriculture and industrialization. Now forests cover about 30% of the Earth¡¯s land, about 40 million km2, distributed unevenly across the globe.

We visualize the top 15 countries with the largest forests, measured in square kilometers. Data for this visualization and article comes from the World Bank, using data for 2021 that was last updated in October 2023.

Ranked: Top 15 Countries with the Biggest Forests

Predictably, the largest country in the world also has the biggest forest area. Nearly 50% of Russia is forest, measuring roughly 8 million km2. This is bigger than the total land area of every other country in the world¡ªwith the exception of China, the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Australia. It also means one-fifth of the world¡¯s entire forested area is in Russia.

Most of Russia¡¯s forests are boreal, to survive the colder, drier climes in the country, and are made up of deciduous and coniferous tree species including larch, pine, spruce, and oak.

While Russia is home to more forest land than any other country, the largest single forest in the world is the Amazon Rainforest in South America.

At second place, Brazil has nearly 5 million km2 of forest cover (about 12% of the world¡¯s forests), thanks to almost two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest inside its borders. For context, Brazil¡¯s forested area is almost twice the size of Saudi Arabia, the 12th largest country in the world.

The Amazon also contributes significantly to Peru¡¯s forest cover (ranked 10th on this list) along with Colombia (13th) Bolivia (14th) and Venezuela (15th).

Canada and the U.S., rank third and fourth with roughly the same forest cover¡ª3 million km2¡ª with several forests on both coasts extending across their shared border.

China rounds out the top five, its forests covering slightly more than 2 million km2.

Together the top five countries account for more than half of the world¡¯s forests.
When taking in the top 10, which adds in forest cover from Australia, the DRC, Indonesia, India, and Peru, this grows to slightly more than two-third¡¯s of the world¡¯s forests. Expanding the ranks to the top 20 will then accounts for 80% of the Earth¡¯s total forest cover.

Russia: 8.2 Million Square Kilometers
Dominating the globe with a staggering 8.2 million square kilometers of forest area, Russia stands tall as the undisputed champion of woodland abundance. That¡¯s a forest area larger than the entire landmass of Australia! But what makes this fact even more awe-inspiring? Well, it¡¯s that these vast, sprawling forests hold an estimated 22% of the Earth¡¯s total forest reserves.

The Russian forests, predominantly Siberian taiga, are not just about size, though. They serve as a crucial global ¡°carbon sink,¡± absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which helps mitigate climate change. So next time you take a breath, maybe send a little thank-you note to Russia for its colossal forest contributions.

Brazil: 5 Million Square Kilometers
Home to the largest tropical rainforest on the planet ¨C the Amazon, Brazil boasts a forest area of nearly 5 million square kilometers. This vast green expanse represents around 13% of the world¡¯s total forest cover, a testament to Brazil¡¯s significant ecological contribution.

These Brazilian forests are a hotbed of biodiversity, housing an estimated 400 billion individual trees from 16,000 species. Unfortunately, these rich, diverse ecosystems are under threat from deforestation, which underscores the need for increased conservation efforts.

Canada: 3.5 Million Square Kilometers
Holding the third-largest forest area globally, Canada¡¯s forests cover an impressive 3.5 million square kilometers. These forests, playing a vital role in the country¡¯s economy, contribute approximately 6.9% to Canada¡¯s total GDP.

But that¡¯s not all. Canadian forests are also home to over 140,000 species, including the iconic Canadian moose and the majestic grizzly bear. So, if you¡¯re a wildlife enthusiast or a nature lover, Canada¡¯s sprawling forests are a must-visit!

USA: 3.1 Million Square Kilometers
With a forest area spanning 3.1 million square kilometers, the United States ranks fourth in terms of global forest coverage. These forests are incredibly diverse, ranging from the lush rainforests of Hawaii to the towering redwoods of California.

Not only do they offer spectacular scenic beauty, but U.S. forests also support over 200,000 full-time jobs in the forestry sector. Plus, they provide habitats for countless wildlife species, making them an irreplaceable part of the nation¡¯s ecological balance.

China: 2.2 Million Square Kilometers
Rounding off the top five, China¡¯s forests cover an area of approximately 2.2 million square kilometers. This might seem a lot smaller compared to the other countries on this list, but what¡¯s riveting about China¡¯s forest story is its rapid growth.

In the last three decades, China has increased its forest coverage by a whopping 25% through vigorous reforestation efforts. This massive green initiative stands as a shining example for other countries on how to combat deforestation and climate change.

Natural Forests vs. Planted Forests

Not all forests are created equal. Primary forests¡ªforests undisturbed by human activity¡ªare better carbon sinks and have greater biodiversity than human-planted ones.

Here¡¯s how each country¡¯s forest cover is divided between primary and naturally-regenerating forests (forest where there are clearly visible indications of human activities but are now slowly reverting back to their natural state) and human¨Cplanted ones.

In countries like Bahrain and Kuwait, areas of extreme aridity, where forests would not occur naturally, human-planted forests account for all forest cover.

But even across large parts of Europe, planted forests vastly outnumber primary and naturally-regenerated ones, indicating how much deforestation occurred on the continent in the last three centuries, which is now being steadily reversed.

In China, which increased its forest cover by the size of Norway in the last three decades, nearly 40% of the total forested area is planted.

Experts say that reversing forest degradation and protecting primary forests¡ªholders of an incredible amount of carbon that would be released into the atmosphere when logged¡ªshould be prioritized instead of just planting new forests.

Forests: The Green Lifeline

Forests are more than just a green carpet on our planet. They are the lungs of the earth, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, essentially making life possible. They¡¯re home to millions of species, many of which are yet to be discovered. They¡¯re also a source of livelihood for over 1.6 billion people worldwide.

So, let¡¯s take a moment to appreciate these green giants, spread across various countries, for the incredible benefits they offer. Remember, their conservation is not just the responsibility of these nations, but all of us who share this beautiful planet.

:  visualcapitalist.com