Forest Conservation:
14 facts you need to know

If we don’t conserve ​forests, how will we clean the air, store carbon and purify water — for the entire planet?


© Kyle Obermann

Camper’s delight

Forests — including mangroves, tropical forests, boreal forests and more — cover 30 percent of the Earth’s land surface. That’s more than the total area of Russia, Canada and the United States combined. Tweet this fact »

© Westend61 GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

One in five breaths

Trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world’s breathable oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest alone. Tweet this fact »

© Conservation International/photo by Karen Mikosz

Four people, every year

In 50 years, a tree can release about 6,000 pounds of breathable oxygen, enough for about 4 people per year. Tweet this fact »

© Conservation International/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn

Living filters

Forests next to rivers and streams act as “living filters” by absorbing sediments and storing and transforming excess nutrients and pollutants — reducing nitrogen concentration by up to 90 percent and phosphorous by as much as 50 percent. Tweet this fact »

© Luciano Candisani/iLCP

Unmatched biodiversity

Tropical forests cover less than 7 percent of Earth’s land mass but are home to about 50 percent of all living things on the planet. Tweet this fact »

© Conservation International/photo by Katrin Olson

Critical cancer drugs

120 prescription drugs sold worldwide have been derived directly from plants found in rainforests, from the cancer drug vincristine to theophylline, which is used to treat asthma. Tweet this fact »

© Conservation International/photo by Stephen Richards

Nature = 30% of the solution

Tropical forests are remarkably effective at carbon sequestration — providing up to 30% of the global action needed to stop climate change. Despite this, of all funding devoted to stopping climate change, nature-based solutions receive only 2% of it. Tweet this fact »

© Conservation International/photo by François Tron

50 million people

Forests are home to 50 million indigenous people around the world, more than the populations of Tokyo, Mexico City, London, New York City and Cairo combined. Tweet this fact »



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© Jessica Scranton

Indigenous peoples protect vital forests

Worldwide, forests that are under stewardship of indigenous people contain more than 55 trillion metric tons of carbon — more than 1,200 times the amount of carbon humans emit into the atmosphere every year. Tweet this fact »

© Conservation International/photo by Bailey Evans

Successful stewardship

Rates of deforestation inside forests legally managed by indigenous peoples and communities are two to three times lower than in other forests. Tweet this fact »

© Conservation International/photo by Daniel Rothberg

A significant portion of income

Forests make up more than 20 percent of household incomes in developing countries. Tweet this fact »

© Benjamin Drummond

1 billion people

More than 1 billion rural people depend on forests to some extent, and over 90 percent of people living in extreme poverty depend on forests for all or part of their livelihoods. Tweet this fact »

© Olivier Langrand

Conserving forests requires animals

Up to 90 percent of trees and plants in tropical forests rely on animals to propagate their seeds — but human activity has put these animals at risk and reduced their numbers in tropical forests by as much as half. Tweet this fact »​​​

© Shawn Heinrichs

Better to protect mature trees

An acre of mature rainforest sequesters more carbon than newly planted or growing trees. One study found that, on average, an acre of mature rainforest stores 34 tons of carbon dioxide more than an acre of growing rainforest over a 20 year period. Tweet this fact »

Bonus fact

© Conservation International/photo by Russell A. Mittermeier

Thank you, Norway

Norway is the first country to stop clear-cutting its boreal forests. Tropical forests are less fortunate: At current rates of deforestation, Earth’s rainforests could be completely gone in 100 years.​​​ Tweet this fact »

Our Solutions

Finding nature-based solutions that protect forests and support the well-being of humans is critical — Conservation International (CI)’s global forest strategy can help communities adapt to climate change impacts; produce better agricultural yields that prevent more deforestation; and support stronger and more sustainable livelihoods.

In Amazonia, CI is working to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. And in communities around the world, CI is implementing REDD+ projects that encourage communities to stop the degradation and deforestation of fo​rests in exchange for training, investment and other benefits.


Conservation International is working to achieve zero net deforestation in Amazonia by 2020 to protect essential resources such as freshwater and carbon storage; help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change; and increase prosperity for local people.


The landmark Paris Agreement explicitly endorsed a nature-based initiative called REDD+ (“red plus”), short for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation,” which provides financial incentives for communities and countries to keep forests standing, thus reducing carbon emissions caused by deforestation.

Mapping natural capital

“Natural capital” is the source of the benefits that nature provides, such as fresh water, flood control and forest products (including cancer-treating drugs and other medicines). Determining the location of essential natural capital is the first step in helping a country account for the full value of nature and incorporate that into its sustainable development plans.

Valuing and accounting for natural capital

Natural capital supports human and financial capital: When climate change threatens nature, societies and economies are threatened, too. Conservation International is helping businesses quantify their impacts and reliance on natural capital to ensure can continue to provide into the future.

San Martín, Peru

CI works with San Martín’s indigenous peoples, exchanging traditional and science-based knowledge to help develop sustainable forestry practices. Our initiatives are designed to enhance the benefits nature provides that are essential to sustain agriculture, tourism, energy and other economic activities.


No amount of innovation or technology can replace the life-giving functions that forests provide for people and the planet. In fact, it’s easier to save forests than to replace them. You can help protect an acre now for only $25.