Forests cover around 30% of Earth and at the same time alone host around 80% of all land animals on our planet. Only the world’s oceans are even more friendly to life. Additionally, forests contain an estimated 60,000 different species of trees and plants. This makes forests a vital part of the global food supply, providing a large share of the world’s agricultural production. The existence of forests is also essential for the environment, as they help to store carbon dioxide and other environmental pollutants. The world’s forests thus are an essential influencer of the global climate, and hence play a crucial role in the stabilization of the Earth’s climate.
The good news is that forests are expected to grow by roughly 50% by the end of the 21st century. This growth is due in part to the increased human understanding of the importance of forests, but also due to the increasing popularity of forest tourism, which allows people to experience the natural beauty of forests from a distance.
According to the official definition by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), forests are land areas that are “spanning more than 0.5 hectares (~1.2 acres) with trees higher than 5 meters (~16 feet) and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent”. Currently, there are around 4 billion hectares / 10 billion acres of forests on our planet that meet this definition. More than half of those are located in only five countries.
This shows how much forests can vary not only in their composition but also in size. The bigger the forests, the more important they are for our planet’s ecosystem. This makes the largest forests in the world particularly important and critical for our planet’s well-being. These largest forests are also some of the most fascinating and beautiful areas anywhere in the world. The following ranking thus lists the top 10 largest forests in the world by their respective sizes (both in square kilometers and square miles).
Top 10 Largest Forests in the World
1. Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest in South America is by far the largest forest in the world. It covers an area of 5.5 million square kilometers / 2.7 million square miles, which is about 40% of South America’s total land area. The Amazon Rainforest is home to over 3 million species of plants and animals, including 2.5 million species that have yet to be fully described by scientists.
The Amazon Rainforest spans across nine countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana. No other forest in the world spans across so many countries and different cultures. Around 30 million people live within the area of the Amazon Rainforest. The world’s longest river, the Amazon River, for which the forest is named after, runs through the rainforest from west to east and provides water for most of the rainforest’s inhabitants.
2. Congo Rainforest
The Congo Rainforest is the second largest forest in the world. It covers an area of around 3.7 million square kilometers / 1.4 million sq miles and is home to over 10,000 species of plants and animals. It is also known for its high density of tall trees. Trees in the Congo Rainforest are on average several times higher than trees in the Amazon rainforest for example.
The Congo Rainforest is located in central Africa and spans across six countries: DR Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Central African Republic & Equatorial Guinea. Up to around 90 million live in the Congo Rainforest. One of the longest rivers in the world, the Congo River, for which the forest is named after, runs through the rainforest.
3. New Guinea Rainforest
The New Guinea Rainforest is the third largest forest in the world. It is located on the island of New Guinea, the second-largest island in the world and spans almost across the entire island. The forest is shared between Indonesia in the Western and Papua New Guinea in the Eastern part of the island.
While the New Guinea Rainforest only convers less than one percent of our planet’s land area, it harbors around 5% of Earth’s animals and plants, many of which are found in this forest exclusively. Additionally, around 13 million people live on New Guinea, speaking around 1,100 different languages.
4. Appalachian Rainforest
The Appalachian Rainforest is the fourth largest forest in total and the world’s largest non-tropical forest. The temperate forest spans across a big part of the southern Appalachian mountains. It is home to many different species of plants and animals, including the American black bear, white-tailed deer, and wild turkey. As far as rainforests go, the Appalachian Forest receives less precipitation than its triopical counterparts, but it still constitutes the second rainiest region in North America.
Among the largest forests in the world, the Appalachian Forest is also the largest to be located entirely within one country, the United States. It spans across seven U.S. states in the Eastern to Southeastern part of the country. Around 15 million people live in the area.
5. Valdivian Rainforest
The Valdivian Rainforest comes in fifth among the world’s largest forests. It is a temperate forest in the southwestern part of South America, most of which is located in southcentral Chile with a smaller part also in southcentral Argentina. The forest area includes the Andes to its east, one of the highest mountain ranges in the world. It is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth with many animals and plants only found here naturally, such as the globally popular Chilean wine palm.
It is also known as one of the most untouched forests in the world, without much human activity. Only relatively few humans live in the area, mostly in small villages. The forest is named after Valdivia, a nearby Chilean city.
6. Atlantic Forest
The Atlantic Forest stretches from the southeastern coast of Brazil to Paraguay, with smaller parts also stretching to Argentina. It includes many different ecosystems and highly mixed biome categories and is also known as one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, with over 20,000 species of plants and animals, many of whom in danger of going extinct, however.
While still remaining one of the largest forests in the world, the Atlantic Forest used to be much bigger in size. The forest used to span across an area of over 1 million square kilometers / 390,000 square miles, making it third among the largest forests in the world. However, due to high human activity such as agriculture and logging in the last 500 years, only around 10% of the forest’s past area remains today. In place of its past extend, big population centers such as Sao Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world, or Rio de Janeiro emerged.
7. Tongass Forest
The Tongass Forest is located in Southeastern Alaska, part of the United States. The temperate forest is located just south of the Taiga ecosystem (also known as Boreal forests), making it one of the northernmost temperate forests in the world. The forest encompasses many of the over 1,000 islands of the Alexander archipelago off the coast of Alaska’s Southeast.
Since December 1907, the Tongass Forest is offcially known as the Tongass National Forest, established by then-U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt as a part of his effort to preserve natural resources from over-exploitation and protect old-growth forests in the United States. The Tongass Forest is thus protected from much human activity and thus remains one of the largest forests in the world, with only a very small number of humans living in the forest area.
8. Xishuangbanna Rainforest
The eight largest forest in the world is the Xishuangbanna Rainforest. The tropical rainforest is located in the Yunnan province of Southern China. It is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and home to many endangered species. While one of the largest forests in the world, the Xishuangbanna Rainforest makes up less than 1% of China’s total land area today, but accounts for around 16% of the country’s biodiversity.
Human activity, especially logging, has significantly decreased the forest size in recent decades, however. The rainforest remains one of the largest forests in the world, but many animals naturally inhabiting the Xishuangbanna Rainforest, such as the Asian elephant, are in danger of extinction.
9. Bosawas Rainforest
The ninth of the largest forests in the world is the Bosawas Rainforest in Northern Nicaragua in Central America. The tropical forest is the largest rain forest of Central America, having managed to avoid the fate of many other rainforests in the region which fell victim to a high degree of deforestation over the last few decades.
The Bosawas Rainforest is part of the protected Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, which makes up roughly 15% of Nicaragua’s total land area, while the forest alone makes up around 7%. The Bosawas Rainforest is entirely located within Nicaragua’s Department of Jinotega,bordering Honduras. Less than a million people live within the rainforest area, including many native tribes.
10. Daintree Rainforest
The Top 10 ranking of the largest forests in the world concludes with the Daintree Rainforest. It is located in Northeastern Australia in the state of Queensland. While the smallest among the largest forests, the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest surviving rainforest in the world, having originally grown around 120 million years ago. It is believed to have once covered all of Australia, but was heavily reduced in size by the climate changed experienced on the Australian continent in the last few millions of years.
Today, the Daintree Rainforest is limited to the Northeastern edge of the continent, extending right to the Pacific coast. The forest is named after Richard Daintree, an English-Australian geologist and photographer, who is credited as being the first to describe and photograph much of the area of the rainforest in the 1860s.
The 10 Largest Forests in the World
|Top 10 Largest Forests in the World:|
|1. AMAZON RAINFOREST
Size: ~ 5.5 million sq km / 2.7 million sq mi
|2. CONGO RAINFOREST
Size: ~ 3.7 million sq km / 1.4 million sq mi
|3. NEW GUINEA RAINFOREST
Size: ~ 780,000 sq km / 300,000 sq mi
|4. APPALACHIAN RAINFOREST
Size: ~ 350,000 sq km / 135,000 sq mi
|5. VALDIVIAN TEMPERATE FOREST
Size: ~ 250,000 sq km / 95,000 sq mi
|6. ATLANTIC FOREST
Size: ~ 100,000 sq km / 39,000 sq mi
|7. TONGASS FOREST
Size: ~ 70,000 sq km / 27,000 sq mi
|8. XISHUANGBANNA RAINFOREST
Size: ~ 19,000 sq km / 7,400 sq mi
|9. BOSAWAS RAINFOREST
Size: ~ 10,000 sq km / 3,600 sq mi
|10. DAINTREE RAINFOREST
Size: ~ 1,200 sq km / 500 sq mi
The top 10 largest forests in the world by their respective sizes in square kilometers and square miles.