Indicators of Social and Governance Issues

Indigenous and Community Forests

This indicator aims to monitor the extent of forestland that is legally titled and customarily held by Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent local communities. Spatial data on the location and boundaries of community land are limited, so this indicator also draws on other (nonspatial) statistics from peer-reviewed literature.

Get the Latest in Your Inbox

Want to stay up to date on the state of the world’s forests? Subscribe to our mailing list.

How much forestland is legally titled to and/or customarily held by Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent local communities?

Community-based tenure systems are estimated to extend over 50 percent of the world’s land,Wily 2011, https://www.iccaconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/legal-example-the-tragedy-of-public-lands-2011.pdf . with at least 22 percent of that land held as traditional indigenous territories.Nakashima 2012, https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000216613_eng . An estimated 36 percent of the world’s remaining intact forest landscapes are on indigenous land.Fa et al. 2020, https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2148 .

Forestland owned by or designated for communities has been growing this century. In a 2018 study by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Indigenous Peoples and local communities were legally recognized as owning at least 447 million hectares (Mha) of forestland and have legally designated rights over an additional 80 Mha, for a total of 14 percent of global forest area. These estimates are based on national tenure statistics for 58 countries, representing 92 percent of global forests. Ginsburg and Keene 2018, https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/At-A-Crossroads_RRI_Nov-2018.pdf . An analysis of a subset of 41 of these countries shows an increase in the amount of forested land owned by or designated for Indigenous Peoples and local communities over time,  from 10 percent in 2002 to 15 percent in 2017.Ginsburg and Keene 2018, https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/At-A-Crossroads_RRI_Nov-2018.pdf . The majority of the gains in forest area legally recognized for Indigenous Peoples and local communities has been in low- and middle-income countries.Ginsburg and Keene 2018, https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/At-A-Crossroads_RRI_Nov-2018.pdf .

More

Forest ownership and rights are divided between governments, communities, private individuals, and firms<fn>Ginsburg and Keene 2018, <a href="https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/At-A-Crossroads_RRI_Nov-2018.pdf">https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/At-A-Crossroads_RRI_Nov-2018.pdf</a>.</fn>

More

Forestland owned by or designated for communities has increased since 2002<fn>Ginsburg and Keene 2018, <a href="https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/At-A-Crossroads_RRI_Nov-2018.pdf">https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/At-A-Crossroads_RRI_Nov-2018.pdf</a>.</fn>

More

Spatial data on the boundaries and location of community lands are limited. The most comprehensive source of spatial data on indigenous and community lands (both lands that have been recognized by governments and those that have not) is the LandMark initiative, which has published maps of indigenous and community lands that collectively cover 12.4 percent of the world’s land. Most of the available data are in North and South America, parts of Southeast Asia, southern Africa, Iran, and Australia.  

Though the data compiled by LandMark represents only a fraction of the world’s indigenous and community lands, analysis of the available spatial data yields insights into how legal tenure might impact deforestation trends in these lands, and what is at stake in protecting them.

  • The LandMark data set includes approximately 136,000 indigenous and community land maps and indicative areas, representing about 12 percent of the world’s land.Webb 2020, https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management/ .
  • These areas contain approximately 16 percent of the world’s intact forest landscapes and 293 gigatons of carbon.Webb 2020, https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management/ .
  • Between 2013 and 2018, the percentage of tree cover loss within indigenous and community lands in Brazil and Peru was higher outside of indigenous and community lands than within.Webb 2020, https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management/ .
  • When comparing tree cover loss across all indigenous and community lands between two time periods (three-year averages between 2013–15 and 2016–18), tree cover loss was 1.6 times higher in indigenous and community lands that were not acknowledged by government versus those that were, suggesting that security of tenure has a positive impact on forest protection.Webb 2020, https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management/ .
  • However, forests on indigenous territories may be at risk. Indigenous territories in Pará, Brazil, are showing significant emerging hot spots of primary forest loss due to land grabbing and mining, and proposed new legislation to allow extractive industries in indigenous territories could worsen the situation.Weisse and Goldman 2020, https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/data-and-research/global-tree-cover-loss-data-2019/ .

Tree cover loss is lower inside indigenous and community lands in Peru and Brazil than outside<fn>Webb et al. 2020, <a href="https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management/">https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management/</a>.</fn>

Tree cover loss is lower inside indigenous and community lands in Peru and Brazil than outside

Less

Although mapping of indigenous and community lands can support the defense of these lands and enable enforcement, information released in the public domain should be carefully considered and should have buy-in from the communities since some information may be sensitive. Rambaldi et al. 2006, https://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/G02957.pdf .  All of the community land maps on LandMark and Global Forest Watch are publicly available or were granted permission through a data-sharing agreement. 

More

Limitations and Future Prospects

Community land maps are important for spatial planning and land-use decision-making, both within the communities themselves and for policymakers. Maps enable communities to delineate the boundaries of their ancestral lands and advocate for forest rights. They also can reduce conflict from overlapping land claims. Additionally, community land maps have been used to understand the impacts of tenure systems on natural assets, such as biodiversity and carbon storage. Several studies have found that deforestation rates in areas under community management (with secure tenure) are comparable to or even lower than rates in state-managed protected areas.Blackman et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1603290114; Blackman and Veit 2018, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.06.016; Ding et al. 2016, https://www.wri.org/publication/climate-benefits-tenure-costs; Nepstad et al. 2006, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00351.x . Increasingly, indigenous and community land maps are also being used by risk assessors working for companies or their investors to understand risks, such as whether there are conflicting claims over lands that they wish to invest in.Emslie 2019, https://onezero.medium.com/this-alternative-to-google-maps-aims-to-protect-indigenous-land-62e2e414eb04 . However, accurate global spatial data on community land are still limited. Lack of data should not be interpreted as indicating the absence of communities.  

More
{"Glossary":{"51":{"name":"agricultural tree crops","description":"Trees cultivated for their food, cultural, or economic values. These include oil palm, rubber, cocoa, cashew, mango, oranges (citrus), plantain, banana, and coconut.\r\n"},"94":{"name":"biodiversity intactness","description":"The proportion and abundance of a location\u0027s original forest community (number of species and individuals) that remain.\u0026nbsp;\r\n"},"95":{"name":"biodiversity significance","description":"The importance of an area for the persistence of forest-dependent species based on range rarity.\r\n"},"1":{"name":"deforestation","description":"The change from forest to another land cover or land use, such as forest to plantation or forest to urban area.\r\n"},"77":{"name":"deforested","description":"The change from forest to another land cover or land use, such as forest to plantation or forest to urban area.\r\n"},"76":{"name":"degradation","description":"The reduction in a forest\u2019s ability to perform ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and water regulation, due to natural and anthropogenic changes.\r\n"},"75":{"name":"degraded","description":"The reduction in a forest\u2019s ability to perform ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and water regulation, due to natural and anthropogenic changes.\r\n"},"79":{"name":"disturbances","description":"A discrete event that changes the structure of a forest ecosystem.\r\n"},"68":{"name":"disturbed","description":"A discrete event that changes the structure of a forest ecosystem.\r\n"},"65":{"name":"driver of tree cover loss","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"70":{"name":"drivers of loss","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"81":{"name":"drivers of tree cover loss","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"2":{"name":"forest","description":"Forests include tree cover greater than 30 percent tree canopy density and greater than 5 meters in height as mapped at a 30-meter Landsat pixel scale.\r\n"},"3":{"name":"forest concession","description":"A legal agreement allowing an entity the right to manage a public forest for production purposes.\r\n"},"90":{"name":"forest concessions","description":"A legal agreement allowing an entity the right to manage a public forest for production purposes.\r\n"},"53":{"name":"forest degradation","description":"The reduction in a forest\u2019s ability to perform ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and water regulation, due to natural and anthropogenic changes.\r\n"},"54":{"name":"forest disturbance","description":"A discrete event that changes the structure of a forest ecosystem.\r\n"},"5":{"name":"forest fragmentation","description":"The breaking of large, contiguous forests into smaller pieces, with other land cover types interspersed.\r\n"},"6":{"name":"forest management plan","description":"A plan that documents the stewardship and use of forests and other wooded land to meet environmental, economic, social, and cultural objectives. Such plans are typically implemented by companies in forest concessions.\r\n"},"62":{"name":"forests","description":"Forests include tree cover greater than 30 percent tree canopy density and greater than 5 meters in height as mapped at a 30-meter Landsat pixel scale.\r\n"},"69":{"name":"fragmentation","description":"The breaking of large, contiguous forests into smaller pieces, with other land cover types interspersed.\r\n"},"80":{"name":"fragmented","description":"The breaking of large, contiguous forests into smaller pieces, with other land cover types interspersed.\r\n"},"74":{"name":"gain","description":"The establishment of tree canopy in an area that previously had no tree cover. Tree cover gain may indicate a number of potential activities, including natural forest growth or the crop rotation cycle of tree plantations.\r\n"},"7":{"name":"hectare","description":"One hectare equals 100 square meters, 2.47 acres, or 0.01 square kilometers and is about the size of a rugby field. A football pitch is slightly smaller than a hectare (pitches are between 0.62 and 0.82 hectares).\r\n"},"66":{"name":"hectares","description":"One hectare equals 100 square meters, 2.47 acres, or 0.01 square kilometers and is about the size of a rugby field. A football pitch is slightly smaller than a hectare (pitches are between 0.62 and 0.82 hectares).\r\n"},"67":{"name":"intact","description":"A forest that contains no signs of human activity or habitat fragmentation as determined by remote sensing images and is large enough to maintain all native biological biodiversity.\r\n"},"78":{"name":"intact forest","description":"A forest that contains no signs of human activity or habitat fragmentation as determined by remote sensing images and is large enough to maintain all native biological biodiversity.\r\n"},"8":{"name":"intact forests","description":"A forest that contains no signs of human activity or habitat fragmentation as determined by remote sensing images and is large enough to maintain all native biological biodiversity.\r\n"},"55":{"name":"land and environmental defenders","description":"People who peacefully promote and protect rights related to land and\/or the environment.\r\n"},"9":{"name":"loss driver","description":"The direct cause of forest disturbance.\r\n"},"10":{"name":"low tree canopy density","description":"Less than 30 percent tree canopy density.\r\n"},"84":{"name":"managed forest concession","description":"Areas where governments have given rights to private companies to harvest timber and other wood products from natural forests on public lands.\r\n"},"83":{"name":"managed forest concession maps for nine countries","description":"Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Indonesia, Liberia, and the Republic of the Congo\r\n"},"91":{"name":"megacities","description":"A city with more than 10 million people.\r\n"},"57":{"name":"megacity","description":"A city with more than 10 million people."},"56":{"name":"mosaic restoration","description":"Restoration that integrates trees into mixed-use landscapes, such as agricultural lands and settlements, where trees can support people through improved water quality, increased soil fertility, and other ecosystem services. This type of restoration is more likely in deforested or degraded forest landscapes with moderate population density (10\u2013100 people per square kilometer). "},"86":{"name":"natural","description":"A forest that is grown without human intervention.\r\n"},"12":{"name":"natural forest","description":"A forest that is grown without human intervention.\r\n"},"63":{"name":"natural forests","description":"A forest that is grown without human intervention.\r\n"},"82":{"name":"persistent gain","description":"Forests that have experienced one gain event from 2001 to 2016.\r\n"},"13":{"name":"persistent loss and gain","description":"Forests that have experienced one loss or one gain event from 2001 to 2016."},"97":{"name":"plantation","description":"An area in which trees have been planted, generally for commercial purposes.\u0026nbsp;\r\n"},"93":{"name":"plantations","description":"An area in which trees have been planted, generally for commercial purposes.\u0026nbsp;\r\n"},"88":{"name":"planted","description":"A forest composed of trees that have been deliberately planted and\/or seeded by humans.\r\n"},"14":{"name":"planted forest","description":"A forest composed of trees that have been deliberately planted and\/or seeded by humans.\r\n"},"73":{"name":"planted forests","description":"A forest composed of trees that have been deliberately planted and\/or seeded by humans.\r\n"},"15":{"name":"primary forest","description":"Old-growth forests that are typically high in carbon stock and rich in biodiversity. The GFR uses a humid tropical primary rainforest data set, representing forests in the humid tropics that have not been cleared in recent years.\r\n"},"64":{"name":"primary forests","description":"Old-growth forests that are typically high in carbon stock and rich in biodiversity. The GFR uses a humid tropical primary rainforest data set, representing forests in the humid tropics that have not been cleared in recent years.\r\n"},"58":{"name":"production forest","description":"A forest where the primary management objective is to produce timber, pulp, fuelwood, and\/or nonwood forest products."},"89":{"name":"production forests","description":"A forest where the primary management objective is to produce timber, pulp, fuelwood, and\/or nonwood forest products.\r\n"},"87":{"name":"seminatural","description":"A managed forest modified by humans, which can have a different species composition from surrounding natural forests.\r\n"},"59":{"name":"seminatural forests","description":"A managed forest modified by humans, which can have a different species composition from surrounding natural forests. "},"96":{"name":"shifting agriculture","description":"Temporary loss or permanent deforestation due to small- and medium-scale agriculture.\r\n"},"17":{"name":"tree cover","description":"All vegetation greater than five meters in height and may take the form of natural forests or plantations across a range of canopy densities. Unless otherwise specified, the GFR uses greater than 30 percent tree canopy density for calculations.\r\n"},"71":{"name":"tree cover canopy density is low","description":"Less than 30 percent tree canopy density.\r\n"},"60":{"name":"tree cover gain","description":"The establishment of tree canopy in an area that previously had no tree cover. Tree cover gain may indicate a number of potential activities, including natural forest growth or the crop rotation cycle of tree plantations."},"18":{"name":"tree cover loss","description":"The removal or mortality of tree cover, which can be due to a variety of factors, including mechanical harvesting, fire, disease, or storm damage. As such, loss does not equate to deforestation. "},"19":{"name":"tree plantation","description":"An agricultural plantation of fast-growing tree species on short rotations for the production of timber, pulp, or fruit.\r\n"},"72":{"name":"tree plantations","description":"An agricultural plantation of fast-growing tree species on short rotations for the production of timber, pulp, or fruit.\r\n"},"85":{"name":"trees outside forests","description":"Trees found in urban areas, alongside roads, or within agricultural land\u0026nbsp;are often referred to as Trees Outside Forests (TOF).\u202f\r\n"}}}