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French forest General information and evolution

General information and evolution

Forest area in Europe currently amounts to 227 million ha and accounts for 35% of the total land area. The degree of forest cover varies among countries in Europe. While the most extensive forest cover (54%) is found in Northern Europe, South-East Europe is the least forested region in Europe (32%) (State of Europe’s Forests 2020).

Figure 1: Forest map of Europe. Data is from the Forest type product available on the Copernicus website, using a definition of the forest close to the FAO definition, i.e. an area of 0.5 ha or more that is characterized by a tree cover density of at least 10%.

France is the fourth country after Sweden (28.0 Mha), Finland (22.4 Mha) and Spain (18.6 Mha) in terms of forest area. (Global Forest Resources Assessment, FAO, 2020).

Forested area has constantly expanded since the second half of the XIXth century. In 1830, the wooded area in France was estimated between 8.9 and 9.5 million of hectares (Cinotti, 1996). Since 1985, the annual expansion recorded by the NFI is up to 80 000 hectares. The French forested area reaches 17.1 millions of hectares (covering 31% of the territory) in 2021 [1].

Figure 2: Evolution of the forested area since 1985.

This important expansion was mainly due to:
 the rural exodus
 the post-war agricultural revolution
 the land afforestation by the Fonds forestier national (FFN): 2 millions of hectares of trees planted between 1947 and 1999
 and the continuation of the mountain reafforestation effort.
Since the past 10 years, this increase in forest area has been going on.

Figure 3: Afforestation rate in 1908.
Figure 4: Afforestation rate in 2021.

Quantity Estimate (1,000 ha) Share of total land area Description
Production forest 16,112 ± 114 29% Forest available for wood supply
Other forests 964 ± 56 2% Forest non available for wood supply (protection status, military area, inaccessibility)
Forest land 17,076 ± 108 31% Area >0.5 ha, min 20m wide, min. crown cover of 10%, min. height of trees 5m maturity in situ
Other land 37,867 ± 153 69% All land that is not classified as forest land
Total land area 54,944 ± 15 100%


[1The results are extracted from the last five inventory campains (led between 2017 and 2021), with 2019 as the mean year called "2021" in this article.


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