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8. What are the economic and social benefits of forests?

  • 8.1 What is the total value of harvested wood?
  • 8.2 What is the value of other forests products harvested?
  • 8.3 How many people are employed in forestry?
  • 8.4 Who owns forests and wooded lands?
  • 8.5 How much of the forest area has been set aside for recreation and other social functions?

Forests provide a wide range of economic and social benefits for instance through employment, value generated from the processing and trade of forest products, and investments in the forest sector. Benefits also include the hosting and protection of sites and landscapes of high cultural, spiritual, or recreational value. Economic benefits can usually be valued in monetary terms but the social functions of forests are more difficult to measure and can vary considerably among countries, depending on their traditions and level of development. Maintaining and enhancing these functions is a part of sustainable forest management, hence information on status and trends in socio-economic benefits is essential. More...

8.1 What is the total value of harvested wood?

The combined value of wood harvested is an indicator of the contribution of forests to national economies, and this information is used to develop and monitor national policies, set priorities and allocate resources.

Globally, the total reported value of wood harvested in 2005 was US$57 billion for industrial roundwood and US$7 billion for fuelwood, which adds up to a total of US$64 billion [Table 7.2]. This contrasts with the fact that in terms of m3 the amounts of industrial roundwood and fuelwood harvested are roughly the same. These figures thus show that fuelwood is roughly ten times less valuable per m3 than industrial roundwood.

Globally, the value of wood removals appears to have increased slightly, from US$53 billion in 1990 to US$55 billion in 2000 and US$59 billion in 2005. However, after adjusting for inflation, the value of wood removals has actually fallen at the global level.

On average, the reported value of wood harvested appears to have increased in all regions except Asia and South America. In Asia, the significant decline in total value is attributable to a reduction in the volume harvested. In Brazil, the value of wood removals declined and then recovered, following a shift from harvesting natural forests to forest plantations which led to lower prices, but a greater productivity. The gross value of wood removals is not necessarily a good indicator of the economic sustainability of forestry. A decline in the value of wood removals (as observed in Brazil) could indicate that the sector has become more cost-efficient. Collecting statistical data about the value-added for the whole forestry sector (including processing) would give a better indication of economic sustainability. More...

8.2 What is the value of other forests products harvested?

The value of non-wood forest products harvested, like the value of wood production, is an indicator of the contribution of forests and woodlands to national economies. It also indicates the contribution of the sector to reducing poverty since non-wood forest products such as food and fodder are mostly collected in rural areas by relatively poor people.

Availability of information about non-wood forest products is very low. Figures provided are likely underestimates since many of those products do not enter conventional markets and are not easily reported. In 2005, the total reported value of non-wood forest products harvested was about US$4.7 billion [Table 7.4]. Plant products accounted for about three-quarters of this value, with food having the highest value (US$1.3 billion), followed by other plant products. Three specific products and countries accounted for the relatively high value of other plant product removals: bidi leaves in India, cork in Spain and green manure in the Republic of Korea. Bushmeat was by far the most important animal product, with a value of US$0.6 billion.

Asia and Europe accounted for almost 90% of the total reported value of non-wood forest products harvested with other regions reporting minimal values owing to limited information availability. For example, the reported value of bushmeat outside Europe was only US$5 million, likely an underestimate since much of the bushmeat produced in other regions is unreported, unregulated or illegal.

The total value of international trade in non-wood forest products amounted to US$11.0 billion which indicates that the total value of non-wood forest products harvested (US$4.7 billion) is an underestimate.

Due to the lack of reliable information, trends are difficult to discern for non-wood forest products. The general trend between 1990 and 2000 is an increase of 26% in the reported value of non-wood forest products, from US$4.8 billion to US$6.1 billion. Though these trends may not be very reliable for all regions, the reported value increased significantly in Asia and slightly in Europe. More...

8.3 How many people are employed in forestry?

The level of employment in forestry is an indicator of the socio-economic value of the sector as well as of the impact of forests on people. Only information on employment related to the primary production of forest goods and related services is presented here.

Overall, in 2000, 11 million people were reported as being employed in forestry
[Table 7.6], of which over half were employed in the primary production of goods. Most of these jobs (8.3 million) were based in India and China.

The reported employment in forestry declined globally by about 10% from 1990 to 2000. On average, employment declined in Asia and Europe, while in the other regions, employment increased slightly. Most of the decline can probably be attributed to increases in productivity achieved for example by increased mechanization. In Europe (including the Russian Federation), the decline in employment numbers can also be explained by the restructuring and privatization of forest activities.

The countries who reported employment information account for about 67% of global forest area. However, the quality of information poses some problems. Countries took different approaches to the inclusion or exclusion of public sector workers in their reported statistics. Some included all public-sector workers, while others apparently did not include any. Some countries, notably India, may have reported the number of people employed part time in the sector, without converting these figures to full-time equivalents. Some reported statistics may include the numbers of people collecting fuelwood and non-wood forest products for subsistence purposes rather than strictly the number of people working in forestry for a wage or salary. More...

8.4 Who owns forests and wooded lands?

The formulation of effective policies for sustainable forest management requires an understanding of ownership issues. Forest ownership is changing in many countries: increasingly shifting from the state to local communities and to individual households, resulting in an increasing complexity in stakeholder relations. These changes affect the way forests are managed and have social, political, and economic implications.

These changes have been assessed here for the first time, and countries had to classify their forests as “public”, “private”, or “other”.

Box 7.1 on forest ownership and resource tenure

Public ownership of forests is predominant in all regions. Globally, 84% of forests and 90% of other wooded land are public. Since ‘public forests’ include those owned by villages, communities, and indigenous groups, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the management of public forests.

Table on ownership of forests

In absolute terms, the largest areas of private forests are found in North America, Europe, and Oceania. In relative terms, private forests are more prevalent in Central America (56% of forest area), Europe excluding Russian Federation ( 51% of forest area), and North America (29% of forest area). In the Russian Federation, less than 10% of total forest area is private. In Africa, private forests represent less than 2% of total forests.

Overall, forests are more and more under private ownership, and private forests represented 11% of global forests in 1990 and 13% in 2000. There does not seem to be clear regional trends except in Europe, where private forests increased from 8 to 9.7%.

Countries reporting on forest ownership account for 77% of total forest area. The percentage is slightly lower for ownership of other wooded land. Uncertainty in ownership issues, lack of up-to-date information, rapid changes, and the fact that forest ownership has been inserted only very recently into forest inventories limit the availability of reliable information. More...

8.5 How much of the forest area has been set aside for recreation and other social functions?

Recreation, tourism, education, and conservation of sites with cultural or spiritual importance are examples of some of the social functions played by forests. The area of forests that is set aside for such functions indicate to what extent this role of forests is taken into account by countries and forest managers.

About a third of countries and territories reported having forest areas designated for social services, and East Asia, Europe, and South America have good availability of information, while data are largely missing from other regions. Moreover, 80%, of the 1.41 million km2 of forests designated for social services worldwide are located in Brazil since this country reported all its ‘indigenous lands’ and ‘sustainable development reserves’ in this category.

Globally, an estimated 3.7% of forest area (1.7% if Brazil is not taken into account) is primarily devoted to social functions. This percentage increases to 30.9% when considering the total area that has social services among its functions. After South America, Europe (without the Russian Federation) has the highest percentage of forests designated for social services (8.3% of total forest area).

A clearer definition of social services provided by forests is needed for future assessments to help reduce the inconsistencies between country reports. The only clear conclusion is that Europe seems to give the most attention to the social services provided by forests as evidenced by active designation of areas for this purpose. More...

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