A forest is a large area of land covered with trees or other woody vegetation. Hundreds of more precise definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological function. According to the widely used United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization definition, forests covered four billion hectares (15 million square miles) or approximately 30 percent of the world’s land area in 2006.
Forests are the dominant terrestrial ecosystem of Earth, and are distributed across the globe. Forests account for 75% of the gross primary productivity of the Earth’s biosphere, and contain 80% of the Earth’s plant biomass.
Forests at different latitudes form distinctly different ecozones: boreal forests near the poles tend to consist of evergreens, while tropical forests near the equator tend to be distinct from the temperate forests at mid-latitude. The amount of precipitation and the elevation of the forest also affects forest composition.
Human society and forests influence each other in both positive and negative ways. Forests provide ecosystem services to humans and serve as tourist attractions. Forests can also impose costs, affect people’s health, and interfere with tourist enjoyment. Human activities, including harvesting forest resources, can negatively affect forest ecosystems.