Indicators of Social and Governance Issues

Deforestation and Vulnerable Populations

Last Updated on June 26, 2024

This indicator aims to monitor the number of people who are potentially vulnerable to losing sources of food and other resources (including wood and non-timber forest products) due to high rates of deforestation. Estimates are derived by combining population density maps with maps of primary forest loss hot spots.European Commission and Columbia University 2015, http://data.europa.eu/89h/jrc-ghsl-ghs_pop_gpw4_globe_r2015a; Harris et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa5a2f.

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.

Subscribe

popup

How many people live near a deforestation hot spot?

Forest Cover and Food Security Risks of Forest Loss to Rural Communities

The amount of forest cover with proximity to a rural household is strongly associated with the likelihood of forest food use, and a growing body of evidence shows that access to forests can support food security in some settings. Though food harvested from forests is generally not the primary source of nutrition for most households, forest foods tend to be healthy and diverse and provide an important safety net in times of economic shock.  Diets with greater amounts of forest food have been found to be healthier than those without.  Although there are numerous studies at the local level documenting the relationship between forests and human well-being, there is no spatially explicit data set on how many people directly depend on forests and where they are located. A recent study estimates that 1.6 billion people in rural areas are considered “forest proximate.”  More data is needed to fully understand this relationship and the effects of forest cover or forest loss on socioeconomic development, which depend on contextual variables such as the relationship within and among communities living in a given geography (particularly if there is current or historic conflict), policy factors (such as local elections and how people participate in governance), and how forests are used in local economies.

Read More +
More

Approximately 146 million people currently live within five kilometers of an emerging hot spot of forest loss,  meaning primary forest areas experiencing large-scale, statistically significant rates of loss at any time over the past 22 years. Brazil, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India and Mexico have the highest number of people living within deforestation hot spots, whereas Equatorial Guinea, French Guiana, Gabon, Guyana and Laos have the highest proportion of their total population close to these hot spots. 

More

Number of people in tropical forest countries living near emerging hot spots of primary forest loss </h3><fn>Harris et al. 2017, https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa5a2f .</fn>

More

Limitations and Future Prospects

This indicator measures the total number of people within five kilometers of a deforestation hot spot, but it is not possible to determine how many of these people rely directly on the nearby primary forest for food, fuel and livelihoods. It also does not capture the specifics of local economic dynamics, such as when this forest loss is associated with a widespread transition to sustainable farming, chosen by local people and directly benefiting them; how many people migrated to the area to otherwise exploit forest resources; or when forest loss may lead to positive movement in certain metrics such as access to hospital care via roads carved out of forests. This indicator also does not capture the impact of forest degradation on the lives of local people, nor does it measure the impacts of this deforestation on people outside of this five-kilometer zone who may be affected by other impacts of deforestation such as flooding, siltation of drinking water or reduced rainfall. Importantly, it does not convey a causal link; for example, whether forest loss drives or is driven by food insecurity and/or loss of livelihoods. Furthermore, this indicator is currently limited to the tropics due to the extent of the humid primary forest data set.

As geospatial data sets needed to identify vulnerable populations and forest ecosystem services do not yet exist at global or regional scales, additional data collection is needed to better understand the relationship between forest-dwelling or forest-adjacent populations and forests. Subnational socioeconomic data, such as reliance on forest products for food security or livelihoods, would help identify which communities rely most on forests. Data on forests’ ecological services — for example, the ability to store carbon, purify water and retain soil integrity — would also further link specific community benefits to communities near and far. Gender-disaggregated data would highlight the differences between men’s and women’s use of forest resources and the increased vulnerability that women might face in losing their livelihood and sustenance; for example, if men must migrate to find alternative sources of livelihoods, or if women lack secure rights to forestland, do not participate in formal economies by choice or coercion or who are more negatively impacted by extreme weather including climate change-induced disasters. More information is needed showing whether a correlation exists between forest tenure and specific forest uses, as tenure defines relationships between people and forests (who can do what, with which resources, for how long, and who makes these decisions) and can therefore help us understand human behavior in and around forests. As new data emerges, it will be evaluated for incorporation into this indicator to improve its accuracy and relevance in future reports. 
 

{"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"},"141":{"name":"agroforestry","description":"A diversified set of agricultural or agropastoral production systems that integrate trees in the agricultural landscape.\r\n"},"101":{"name":"albedo","description":"The ability of surfaces to reflect sunlight.\u0026nbsp;Light-colored surfaces return a large part of the sunrays back to the atmosphere (high albedo). Dark surfaces absorb the rays from the sun (low albedo).\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"},"142":{"name":"boundary plantings","description":"Trees planted along boundaries or property lines to mark them well.\r\n"},"98":{"name":"carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)","description":"Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a measure used to aggregate emissions from various greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the basis of their 100-year global warming potentials by equating non-CO2 GHGs to the equivalent amount of CO2.\r\n"},"99":{"name":"CO2e","description":"Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a measure used to aggregate emissions from various greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the basis of their 100-year global warming potentials by equating non-CO2 GHGs to the equivalent amount of CO2.\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"},"102":{"name":"evapotranspiration","description":"When solar energy hitting a forest converts liquid water into water vapor (carrying energy as latent heat) through evaporation and transpiration.\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"},"100":{"name":"forest disturbances","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"},"143":{"name":"global land squeeze","description":"Pressure on finite land resources to produce food, feed and fuel for a growing human population while also sustaining biodiversity and providing ecosystem services.\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"},"104":{"name":"managed natural forests","description":"Naturally regenerated forests with signs of management, including logging, clear cuts, etc.\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"},"144":{"name":"open canopy systems","description":"Individual tree crowns that do not overlap to form a continuous canopy layer.\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"},"103":{"name":"surface roughness","description":"Surface roughness of forests creates\u0026nbsp;turbulence that slows near-surface winds and cools the land as it lifts heat from low-albedo leaves and moisture from evapotranspiration high into the atmosphere and slows otherwise-drying winds. \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.\u0026nbsp;As such, tree cover gain does not equate to restoration.\r\n"},"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.\r\n"},"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"},"105":{"name":"unmanaged natural forests","description":"Naturally regenerated forests without any signs of management, including primary forest.\r\n"}}}