What Countries Have the Largest Forests in the World?

What Countries Have the Largest Forests in the World cover

Canada is host to vast forests found in every province and territory across the country. Home to the world’s third-largest forest area, nearly 362 million hectares (ha), or 40% of its land surface area, is covered by forest.

But what other countries also have significant amounts of the world’s tree cover? A new infographic by Visual Capitalist shows how Canada stacks up to the rest of the world [1].

Top 15 Countries with the Largest Forests

Top 15 Countries with the largest forests

Courtesy of Visual Capitalist

#1 – Russia – 20.1%

#2 – Brazil – 12.3%

#3 – Canada – 8.6%

#4 – United States – 7/7%

#5 – China – 5.5%

#6 – Australia – 3.3%

#7 – Democratic Republic of Congo – 3.1%

#8 – Indonesia – 2.3%

#9 – India – 1.8%

#10 – Peru – 1.8%

#11 – Angola – 1.6%

#12 – Mexico – 1.6%

#13 – Colombia – 1.5%

#14 – Bolivia – 1.3%

#15 – Venezuela – 1.1%

Note: above percentages refer to % of world’s forest cover

Key Highlights

• Forests cover one-third of the world’s surface area, at 40.4 million square kilometres (km2)

• The top 15 countries with the largest forests account for roughly 70% of the world’s forest cover

• Russia alone accounts for one-fifth of Earth’s forests

• China’s forest cover has grown by nearly 650,000 km2 (nearly twice the size of Norway) since 1990

• Three-quarters of Australia’s forests are eucalyptus trees which have extremely flammable barks

• Indonesia’s forest cover has declined nearly 20% since 1990, driven by an expanding palm oil sector

• The Amazon rainforest, spanning 6.7 million km2, spreads over nine countries including Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Brazil

Russia, the world’s largest country, is home to the largest forest area – about 20 per cent of all found globally. Almost half of Russia’s land surface area is forest, measuring approximately 8 million km2. The size of Russia’s forests is in fact larger than every country in the world, except for Canada, Brazil, Australia, China, and the United States.

Next up, Brazil is home to almost five million km2 of forest cover, about 12% of the world’s forests. With nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest found inside South America’s largest country, Brazil’s forested area is nearly twice as large as Saudi Arabia, the world’s 12th largest country.

Canada ranks third globally, with nearly 9% of the world’s forests. These are spread out across 362 million hectares, or nearly 40% of its land surface area. According to Visual Capitalist, Canada’s forests are considered 95% naturally “regenerating” and about 5% “planted,” indicative of its extremely low deforestation rates.

Forests are Canada

Like for many other countries on this list, forests are an incredibly important part of life for Canadians and Indigenous peoples from coast to coast, providing a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits.

The forestry sector, for example, provides critical jobs and career opportunities for workers in 2,400 communities, many of which are in remote locations. The industry added over $25 billion to the national economy, supported more than 300-forest reliant communities, and employed over 200,000 people in 2021, including roughly 12,000 Indigenous peoples [2].

Apart from economic opportunities, Canadians and Indigenous peoples enjoy leisure and recreation in forests sometimes daily. Over 23 million people live in or near forests in Canada, making our forests an inherent part of our identity as we live, work and play in them year-round.

Sustainable Forest Management in Canada

Canada is a global leader in responsible forest management and development. In 2021, Canada was home to 164 million hectares of certified forest land, or about 36% of the world’s total certified forest area [3]. For comparison, this area is the same size as the total area of Germany, France, Spain and the UK combined [3].

Canada’s sustainable forest management initiatives are based on scientific research, rigorous planning processes and extensive public consultation. Strict laws, regulations and policies are set forth by municipal, provincial, and federal governments to:

  • Specify harvesting and regeneration practices
  • Set aside protection for new areas and biodiversity
  • Respect Indigenous values and treaty rights
  • Prevent illegal logging
  • Prohibit the import of illegal timber products

Every year, less than a fraction of a per cent of Canada’s total forested area is harvested by the forestry sector. In 2020, for example, Canadian industry harvested 716,000 hectares of forests, equating to 0.2% of our country’s forested land [2].

Home to the world's third-largest forested area, Canada has an inherent responsibility to sustainably manage its forests. So far, all evidence points towards it is doing just that.


1 - https://www.visualcapitalist.com/which-countries-have-the-largest-forests/

2 - https://natural-resources.canada.ca/our-natural-resources/forests/state-canadas-forests-report/how-do-forests-benefit-canadians/16509#employment

3 - https://natural-resources.canada.ca/our-natural-resources/forests/sustainable-forest-management/forest-management-certification-canada/17474

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