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Finally, some good news from the world’s tropical forests: overall, large-scale clearing appears to have dropped sharply since 2005. This is the bottom line in the first global report and database from FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action), which I have developed with Dan Hammer and Robin Kraft during the past three years.


Working Paper 283: Forest Clearing in the Pantropics: December 2005–August 2011

Working Paper 282: From REDD to Green: A Global Incentive System to Stop Tropical Forest Clearing

Working Paper 280: Economic Dynamics and Forest Clearing: A Spatial Econometric Analysis for Indonesia

We’ve built FORMA to support REDD+ by giving the global community rapid access to free, high-resolution spatial data on large-scale tropical forest clearing. Our first global report covers 27 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that accounted for 94 percent of tropical forest clearing from 2000 to 2005, the latest period for which comprehensive, reliable information was available prior to FORMA.[1] Our database tracks monthly clearing since December 2005 for the 27 countries, their 280 states and provinces, and over 2,900 subprovinces and municipalities. We’ll soon release a companion GIS database that tracks clearing in each square kilometer of tropical forest land in the countries covered by FORMA. During the next few months, we’ll increase FORMA’s spatial resolution to 500 square meters and expand coverage to the countries that accounted for over 99 percent of forest clearing from 2000 to 2005.

With the information provided by FORMA, we can track monthly forest-clearing activity in local areas, countries, regions, and the entire pantropics. Figure 1 displays the global summary from December 2005 to August 2011, along with a 12-month moving average and regression trend line.[2] The moving average is clearly dominated by a drop from September 2008 to September 2010, which coincides with the onset of the global economic crisis. Overall, the results in Figure 1 suggest that tropical forest clearing has dropped by about 42 percent since 2005.

Figure 1: Tropical Forest Clearing, 2005–2011

Source: FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action)

While the total has dropped significantly during the global recession, widely-divergent country patterns highlight the continued importance of local and regional factors in forest clearing. Among the 27 countries in our first report, clearing has declined in 12, increased in 14, and remained roughly constant in 1. Overall clearing is down because declines in some countries have dominated increases in others. I’ll discuss the winners and losers in coming blogs, as well as related insights from two new CGD papers that draw on FORMA: From REDD to Green: A Global Incentive System to Stop Tropical Forest Clearing, and Economic Dynamics and Forest Clearing: A Spatial Econometric Analysis for Indonesia.

Although the overall trend is hopeful, it remains to be seen whether the decline in forest clearing will persist as the global economy recovers. We’ll provide regular updates to the FORMA database and notify our newsletter subscribers as they become available.

[1] See Hansen and others, “Humid Tropical Forest Clearing from 2000 to 2005 Quantified Using Multi-temporal and Multi-resolution Remotely Sensed Data,” PNAS 105(27): 9439–
[2] The moving average is the mean of the current month and the previous 11 months. The regression trend line is fitted to the moving average series.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.