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Spatial Database of Planted Trees (SDPT Version 1.0)

The objective of this work is to spatially differentiate plantation forests and tree crops from natural and seminatural forests on a global scale. By identifying and eliminating these areas from global tree cover data, “natural forest” areas can be more readily isolated, leading to more effective tracking of national and global progress toward major international commitments that relate to forests, climate, and biodiversity. Results show that in 2015, there were approximately 173 million hectares of planted forests worldwide, or slightly over 4 percent of total tree cover. An additional 50 million hectares were mapped as tree crops.

Executive Summary

The online Global Forest Watch (GFW) platform has become essential to how the international community understands and interacts with forest information. While most international policy frameworks and private sector commitments refer to monitoring “forests” or “natural forests,” GFW monitors global “tree cover” and “tree cover change.” “Tree cover” on the GFW platform includes natural and planted forests, as well as oil palm, rubber, orchards, cocoa, coffee, and other tree crops that are not typically considered forest.

The objective of this work is to spatially differentiate plantation forests and tree crops from natural and seminatural forests on a global scale. For this purpose, “tree crops” are stands of perennial tree crops, such as rubber, oil palm, coffee, coconut, cocoa, and orchards, and “planted forests” are stands of planted trees—other than tree crops—grown for wood and wood fiber production or for ecosystem protection against wind and/or soil erosion. By identifying and eliminating these areas from GFW’s global map of tree cover, “natural forest” areas can be more readily isolated, leading to more effective tracking of national and global progress toward major international commitments that relate to forests, climate, and biodiversity. We conducted extensive outreach to compile, synthesize, and harmonize national maps of the world’s planted forests and tree crops into a global map, which we refer to as the Spatial Database of Planted Trees (SDPT). Results show that in 2015, there were approximately 173 million hectares of planted forests worldwide, or slightly over 4 percent of total tree cover. An additional 50 million hectares were mapped as tree crops.

Ultimately, this first version of the SDPT is intended to incentivize the necessary efforts to improve information about where planted forests and tree crops are located throughout the world. The SDPT stands out as a living database that will continually evolve and improve as new data are produced by governments and independent researchers alike.

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