World Rainforest Movement

Forest Definition


Most of the national and international governmental bodies use the FAO definition in relation to forests which defines forests as “land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10 percent and area of more than 0.5 hectares (ha). The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters (m) at maturity in situ”. According to this definition, forests are nothing more than an abstract collection of trees with certain physical characteristics. Obviously, trees are indeed crucial elements of a forest, but what this FAO definition leaves out is that a collection of trees alone does not make a forest. Forests are defined by a complex web of interaction between a large variety of plants and animals as well as forest and forest-dependent peoples. Some parts, including insects, birds, large animals and trees are maybe more visible but it is the less visible plants and animals, the invisible web of life in forest soils that sustains a forest and provides the many uses for forest dependent peoples and guarantees essential functions for humanity and the planet in general. For more than 10 years, many organizations have been campaigning for FAO to change its ‘forest’ definition.


  • International Day of the Forests 2017

    Posted on March 10, 2017

    March 21st, has been proclaimed by the FAO as the International Day of Forests. But the FAO forest definition considers a tree monoculture plantation as a “forest”. By allowing this, the UN institution, is undermining the lives of...

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  • Support the letter urging FAO to revise its forest definition!

    Posted on January 20, 2017

    Dear friends, March 21st, the International Day of Forests, is around the corner! As you may recall, on that day we will be sending a letter to the FAO demanding again that it changes its forest definition which allows an industrial tree...

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  • International Day of the Forests – March 21st, 2015

    Posted on March 17, 2015

    Dear friends, WRM is pleased to announce the release of three new materials that we would like to share with you on March 21, designated by the United Nations as International Day of Forests. – The first is a new document called...

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  • Open letter to FAO on the occasion of the International Day of Forests 2014

    Posted on March 17, 2014

    The United Nations (UN) has declared March 21st as the International Day of Forests. For us a good reason to send once again a letter (see below) urging the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN to review its present...

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  • Open letter to the UN and its institutions and initiatives related to forest issues

    Posted on March 1, 2013

    On the occasion of March 21st, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as International Day of the Forests (1), the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) and more than 300 signatories call on the General Assembly and UN Institutions and...

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  • Campaign on Forest Definition

    Posted on January 4, 2011

    2011 was declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations. In response, WRM has launched a campaign that challenges the definition of “forest” used by FAO. This is not a simple matter of semantics: FAO’s definition of...

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Articles from the WRM Bulletin

Books and Briefings

  • United Nations’ 2015 International Day of Forests. Theme: “Forests / Climate / Change”. What change? 

    Posted on March 20, 2015

    Download as pdf here. Also available in Bahasa The aim of this document is to respond to this year’s campaign for March 21 carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In a very short video, FAO...

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  • Forest definition

    Posted on November 10, 2011

    When we talk about “the definition of forest”, what is perhaps most striking is the fact that, although there are many definitions of the word “forest” in different parts of the world, there is one definition viewed as more...

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  • Plantations are NOT forests

    Posted on October 9, 2003

    This book gathers a selection of articles published in the monthly electronic bulletin of the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), addressing the  issues of plantations and the struggles developed at the local and global levels against...

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Meetings and Events

Other Relevant Information


  • But, where is the water?

    Posted on March 21, 2016

    On the 21st of March, International Day of the Forests, the FAO has launched another nice video. This year the video is about forests and water. Did you notice the video does not include any monoculture tree plantations, even though FAO...

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  • This is not sustainable

    Posted on March 20, 2015

    This two-minutes video is a rebuttal of the one-minute video produced by FAO for International Day of Forests. The video aims to challenge the FAO video for March 21, which narrowly and erroneously views forests as if they were a...

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  • Forests. Much more than a lot of trees

    Posted on November 29, 2011

    Produced by the World Rainforest Movement Directed by Flavio Pazos The United Nations declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests You may have already heard that the livelihoods of over 1.6 billion people depend on forests, that...

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  • Short animation – Let’s define forests by their true meaning

    Posted on February 16, 2011

    Also available in: Afrikaans, Aymara, Catala, Chinese, Dutch, Finish, German, Bosnian, Italian, Maori, Mapuche, Maya Kaqchikel, Maya Popti, Maya Tseltal, Maya Tsotsil, Swedish, Vietnamese and Zulu Following FAO’s criterion for the...

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