Similar term(s): primary forest, secondary forest, forest plantation.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines “forest” as a portion of land bigger than half a hectare (5 000m2) with trees higher than 5 meters and a tree canopy cover of more than 10 %, or with trees that will be able to meet these criteria.

It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use.


Primary forests are forests of native tree species, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.

Secondary forests regenerate on native forests, which have been cleared by natural or man made causes, such as agriculture or ranching. They display a major difference in forest structure and/or species composition with respect to primary forests. Secondary vegetation is generally unstable, and represents successional stages.

Modified natural forests are forests of naturally regenerated native tree species in places with indications of human activities.

Semi-natural forests are forests of native tree species, established through planting, seeding or assisted natural regeneration.

Forest plantations are forested areas artificially established by planting or seeding. The trees usually belong to the same specie (whether native or introduced), have the same age and are regularly spaced. The objective of forest plantations can be the production of wood and non- wood goods (productive forest plantations) or the provision of ecosystem services (protective forest plantations).

Other wooded land refers to land with trees higher than 5 meters but with a tree canopy cover of only 5 to 10 %. It also refers to land with a combined cover of shrubs, bushes and trees of more than 10%. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use.

Other land with tree cover refers to lands that are not classified as forests because they are predominantly under agricultural or urban land use, even though they meet the area, height and canopy cover set for forests. They include groups of trees and scattered trees in agricultural landscapes, parks, gardens and around buildings, as well as tree plantations established mainly for other purposes than wood, such as fruit orchards.

Source: GreenFacts, based on FAO Forestry Department Terms and definitions 

Related words:


To read about this term in context:

GreenFacts Summary on Forests

GreenFacts Summary on Forests & Energy


Deutsch: Wald
Español: Bosques / Recursos forestales
Français: Forêt
Nederlands: Bos

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