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There’s a lot more to forests than trees. Forests and wildlife need each other to thrive, and we need forests to fight the climate crisis. 

What defines a forest? 

Our little blue planet is actually pretty green. Almost a third of the Earth’s land is covered by forest - large areas dominated by trees that are home to an abundance of plants and animals.

Western lowland gorilla, Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve, Central African

Why are forests so important?

  • Forests aren’t just full of trees – they're teeming with all kinds of life. In fact, they’re home to an enormous 80% of the world’s land-based animals, insects and plant species, and around 300 million people. 
  • They also provide livelihoods to around 1.6 billion people, at least 1 billion of whom live in economic poverty.  
  • Yet no matter where you live, forests are crucial to every one of us. They recycle the air we breathe, and regulate rainfall and climate patterns around the world.
  • Their ecosystem services even include water purification and carbon sequestration (storing carbon). 

All of this makes forests our greatest asset in the fight against climate change. You could say forests are the life support system for our world. 

Aerial view of Amazon deforestation, municipality of Calamar, Guaviare Department, Colombia.

What is the impact on forests?

Our forests are in crisis. Climate change, deforestation and damage from wildfires, in places like the Amazon, Congo and the rainforests of South East Asia are having devastating impacts for wildlife, water supply, food production, livelihoods and the stability of the global climate system.

In our largest rainforest, The Amazon, when forest is lost a vicious cycle becomes established. The more forest that is lost, the less rainfall is produced by the forest and drought and fire effects cause even more forest losses. This loop could cause the entire Amazon forest biome to reach a tipping point where it's lost to a state of permanent degradation.

On top of that, many surviving forests have been so damaged and degraded that the plants and animals that rely on them are threatened with extinction. Over time these remaining forests are being emptied of the wildlife that once called them home.

Forest stripes

What are the forest stripes and how do they work?

The Forest Stripes show the crisis facing our world’s forests in one striking image. Based on the Climate Stripes, and created by WWF in collaboration with the University of Reading, University of Derby, and ZSL, the stripes show the average decline in abundance of forest-specialist species – a shocking 79% decrease from 1970 to 2018. The forest stripes are a visual representation of the change in abundance of species that rely on forests from 1970-2018. Find out more at Biodiversity stripes

How can I use the stripes?

You can download the stripes from Use of the stripes is encouraged under our licence, but cannot be used commercially without written permission from WWF and ZSL. Source: ZSL/WWF (2022) Forest Specialist Index, 1970 to 2018 (

Ancient oak tree Devon UK

How can we help our forests?

  • We can stop their destruction by changing the way we finance and use them.  
  • We should support healthy forests in nations and territories where they are still found, through global economic systems that keep them managed sustainably; protecting them and the biodiversity they are home to.
  • We must urgently and carefully restore forests in places where they have been lost.  
  • We need to strengthen the land rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, and reduce poverty, so that all forest peoples can benefit from and protect the forests in which they live, as we know that the forests that are doing best are often under their stewardship.

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