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US Forest area as a percentage of total land area

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This table provides metadata for the actual indicator available from US statistics closest to the corresponding global SDG indicator. Please note that even when the global SDG indicator is fully available from US statistics, this table should be consulted for information on national methodology and other US-specific metadata information.

Actual indicator available Forest area as a percentage of total land area
Actual indicator available - description Forest area, as defined and measured by USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, as a proportion of total U.S. land area as measured by U.S. Census. Both measures are used as periodically reported to UN FAO and published in that organization’s Global Forest Resource Assessment (FAO GFRA)
Date of national source publication October 2014
Method of computation
Periodicity Compiled every five years, timed to coincide with submission to FAO GFRA.
Scheduled update by national source Next expected agency release: 2019
U.S. method of computation Total U.S. Forest Area, as defined and measured by USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program and reported to UN FAO, is divided by Total U.S. Area minus Inland Water Bodies, as defined and measured by U.S. Census and reported to UN FAO: [Total U.S. Forest Area] / [(Total U.S. Area) – (Inland Water Bodies)]. Resulting measures are converted from acres to hectares.
Comments and limitations Forest area measures derived from inventory activities involve a complex mix of definitions, sampling protocols and statistical procedures. General information on the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis program can be found at: http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/. A summary description of definitions and sampling protocols can be found at: http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/20371. The U.S. forest inventory is conducted on a continuous basis, with results compiled periodically, notably the five year compilations published in the Resource Planning Act Assessment (RPA, see: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/gtr/gtr_wo091.pdf), which are then submitted to UN FAO. The most recent RPA numbers were compiled for 2012 and submitted to UN FAO for their 2015 GFRA report. The next set of RPA numbers will be compiled for 2017 and submitted to FAO for their 2020 GFRA report. Inventory results are sometimes subject to backward revisions, resulting in minor changes to previous period forest area estimates (for this reason, current submissions for SDG 15.1.1 do not exactly match past submissions for Millennium Development Goal 7.1). Total Land Area and Inland Water Bodies are reported by U.S. Census on a ten year basis, the most recent of which was for 2010 and submitted to UN FAO for their 2015 GFRA report. These numbers have not changed considerably over the last two decades (FAO GFRA reports identical total land areas for 1990, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015).
Date metadata updated
Disaggregation geography Forest inventory data is available at the state and county level, but FAO GFRA reporting is limited to a single national estimate.
Unit of measurement Percent
Disaggregation categories
International and national references UN FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015: Main Report: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2016. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 How are the world’s forests changing? Second edition. UN FAO, Rome. (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4793e.pdf.). U.S. Country Report: http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/4a446430-0b06-4d1e-b0ae-101d210787c4/. USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory sampling design and estimations procedures: Bechtold, William A.; Patterson, Paul L.; [Editors]. 2005. The enhanced forest inventory and analysis program - national sampling design and estimation procedures. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-80. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 85 p. (http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/20371).
Time period Referenced time period represents a snapshot of conditions for the compilation year, which typically lags publication date by 2 years. Data collection is continuous.
Scheduled update by SDG team

This table provides information on metadata for SDG indicators as defined by the UN Statistical Commission. Complete global metadata is provided by the UN Statistics Division.

Indicator name Forest area as a proportion of total land area
Target name By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements.
Global indicator description The indicator is already included among the indicators for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) (indicator 7.1 "Proportion of land covered by forest") . In order to provide a precise definition of the indicator, it is crucial to provide a definition of "Forest" and "Total Land Area". According to the FAO definitions, Forest is defined as "land spanning more than 0.5 hectares with trees higher than 5 meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent, or trees able to reach these thresholds in situ. It does not include land that is predominantly under agricultural or urban land use". More specifically: Forest is determined both by the presence of trees and the absence of other predominant land uses. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters. It includes areas with young trees that have not yet reached but which are expected to reach a canopy cover of at least 10 percent and tree height of 5 meters or more. It also includes areas that are temporarily unstocked due to clear-cutting as part of a forest management practice or natural disasters, and which are expected to be regenerated within 5 years. Local conditions may, in exceptional cases, justify that a longer time frame is used. It includes forest roads, firebreaks and other small open areas; forest in national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas such as those of specific environmental, scientific, historical, cultural or spiritual interest. It includes windbreaks, shelterbelts and corridors of trees with an area of more than 0.5 hectares and width of more than 20 meters. It includes abandoned shifting cultivation land with a regeneration of trees that have, or are expected to reach, a canopy cover of at least 10 percent and tree height of at least 5 meters. It includes areas with mangroves in tidal zones, regardless whether this area is classified as land area or not. It includes rubberwood, cork oak and Christmas tree plantations. It includes areas with bamboo and palms provided that land use, height and canopy cover criteria are met. It excludes tree stands in agricultural production systems, such as fruit tree plantations, oil palm plantations, olive orchards and agroforestry systems when crops are grown under tree cover. Note: Some agroforestry systems such as the "Taungya" system where crops are grown only during the first years of the forest rotation should be classified as forest. Total land area is the total surface area of a country less the area covered by inland waters, like major rivers and lakes.
UN designated tier 1
UN custodial agency FAO (Partnering Agencies: UNEP)
Link to UN metadata Link opens in a new window
Organisation USDA Forest Service; Research & Development; Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment Research
Agency Staff Name Guy Robertson
Agency Survey Dataset USDA Forest Service; Research & Development; Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment Research
Notes Web source: http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/gtr/gtr_wo091.pdf. Oswalt, Sonja N.; Smith, W. Brad; Miles, Patrick D.; Pugh, Scott A. 2014. Forest Resources of the United States, 2012: a technical document supporting the Forest Service 2015 update of the RPA Assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-91. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington Office. 218 p. See: Table 1a. Land area in the United States by major class, region, subregion, and State, 2012.
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