Which Countries Have the Most Trees?

Researchers assess 'tree wealth' around the world.

Sunbeams pour through the trees in a Russian forest. Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock

There are more than 3 trillion trees in the world, according to a fascinating study released in the journal Nature. The good news: That's more than seven times the earlier estimates of 400 billion trees. The bad news: Humans have cut those numbers by 47% since the start of civilization.

Where Are Those Trees?

Scientists calculated what's called "tree wealth" or "tree resources" based on estimates of the number of trees in every country in the world in relation to various factors, including the country's physical size and population.

1. Russia

The world's overall tree leader is Russia, with 642 billion trees, reports the Washington Post, which analyzed the data presented by researchers. It's estimated that roughly 45% of the country's landmass is covered by forest.

2. Canada

Next is Canada with 318 billion trees. Approximately 40% of its landmass is tree-covered, and this represents an impressive 30% of the global forest cover. Spruce trees are among the most abundant.

3. Brazil

Brazil is in third place with 302 billion. This isn't surprising, considering it's home to much of the Amazon rainforest. Deforestation continues to be a major threat.

4. United States

The United States comes in fourth with 228 billion trees. Roughly 30% of the country is covered with forests. Alaska is its most forested state.

5. China

China has 140 billion trees, which covers approximately 23% of its territory. Deforestation is a problem here, too, due to rapid expansion and development. The government has been trying to offset this with projects like the Great Green Wall, begun in 1978, that plants trees to hold back incursion of the Gobi Desert.

6. Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC has 101 billion trees and more than 600 species. It stands out in Africa as a rare forested nation.

7. Indonesia

Indonesia has almost 81 billion trees, covering almost 46% of its landmass. Its rainy tropical climate promotes tree growth.

8. Australia

Australia has 77 billion trees, many of which are native eucalyptus (also known as gum trees). Their leaves are a favorite food of koala bears.

9. Bolivia

This South American nation has 59 billion trees. Trees cover about 50% of its land mass and there's a great range in biodiversity due to the country's varying topography.

10. Mexico

Mexico is in 10th place on this list, with almost 57 billion trees that are home to thousands of endemic species.

Are There Benefits of High Tree Wealth?

Having lots of trees provides many benefits, as the Post points out: "They filter water, combat air pollution, sequester huge amounts of carbon that would otherwise reside in the atmosphere, and even, it appears, contribute to human psychological and health benefits. Indeed, large parts of the world population depend on forests for food."

Plus, there's the emotional benefit.

“I think people inherently value trees,” said Clara Rowe, one of the study's authors and a recent graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “In the days since our study was published, we’ve heard from individuals all over the world who are concerned about forest resources in their countries.”

What Else Does the Study Reveal?

global tree density map
This tree density map of the world shows where Earth is rich with tree cover and where it's not. Nature

It's little surprise that larger countries with the most land often have the most trees. That's why researchers wondered if it was more valuable to measure "tree density," which looks at the most trees per square kilometer. With that measurement, desert countries have the lowest tree densities.

Researchers also considered the number of trees per person and found that large northern countries like Russian and Canada were very tree-rich, while desert countries were tree-poor.

Although it has been suggested that wealthier countries often have more trees, the Nature researchers (and their data) disagree. They found no correlation between economic status and trees.

But researchers believe that knowing tree wealth can be a good starting point for improving the overall tree situation.

“Ultimately, we hope that our study encourages more specific metrics for understanding forest resources,” Rowe told the Washington Post. “Countries should ask themselves: How old are our forests? How much carbon do they store? How diverse are our trees and the species they shelter? But for now, tree number is a great place to start.”

View Article Sources
  1. Crowther, T., Glick, H., Covey, K. et al. "Mapping tree density at a global scale." Nature. 2015.

  2. "The World's 3 Trillion Trees, Mapped." Washington Post. 2015.