The total forest area in the world is estimated at 3.9 billion hectares, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This is about 30 per cent of the world’s land surface. The FAO estimates that the figure fell by 13 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2010, due to natural causes or because of deforestation. However, over the past decade, forest area grew by an estimated 5 million hectares annually.
Of the 3.9 billion hectares, Russia has the largest share with 20.4 per cent of the world’s forests. Brazil has 12.3 per cent of the total and Canada 8.7 per cent. If we treat the EU as a unit, it ranks sixth on this list, with 4.0 per cent. This represents 157 million hectares, which is 38 per cent of the territory of the European Union. As for other land uses, in the EU 44.7 per cent is used for agriculture, while 4.8 per cent is built up. Most European forests are privately owned (about 60 per cent).
The EU treaties do not make specific reference to forests, and the European Union does not have a common forest policy, which has primarily remained a national competence. In terms of forest area per country, there are huge differences within the EU.
Looking at the absolute numbers, there are 26.5 million hectares of forest in Sweden and 206 hectares in Malta. The highest share of forests is found in Finland, at 21.5 million hectares, or 63.7 per cent of the country. Sweden and Slovenia are the other member states with more than half of their territory forested. Hungary ranks 21st with 1.7 million hectares of forest, representing 18.8 per cent of the country’s 93,000 square kilometers. According to the data Hungary’s Central Statistical Office, the extent of forest area in Hungary was 1.9 million hectares in 2018, equating to almost 21 per cent forest cover.
In terms of forested hectares per capita, not surprisingly the Finns (4.2) and Swedes (3.2) come in first. Meanwhile the Maltese, Belgians and Dutch have almost no forest of their own, the per-capita values in these countries being less than 0.1 hectare. The situation is not much better in Hungary, at 0.2 hectares per person.
The data described above were provided for all EU countries by the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, which operates under the European Commission’s Joint Research Center and the European Environment Agency.
Our forests are gone
Taking a historical perspective, it may be noted that before the beginning of human activity, 84 per cent of the current area of Hungary was forest. From the recent d