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.


Articles from the WRM Bulletin

Books and Briefings

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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