Indicator 83. Annual change in forest area and land under cultivation (modified MDG Indicator)

Rationale and definition:

This indicator tracks the net change of forest area and the expansion of agriculture into natural ecosystems, as well as the loss of productive agricultural land to the growth of urban areas, industry, roads, and other uses, which may threaten a country’s food security. It is measured as a percentage change per year and tracked by FAO. Success would be reducing the loss of agricultural land to other uses (industry, urban areas), while also halting the conversion of natural ecosystems to agriculture. Sustainable agroecological intensification would allow increased food production without converting natural ecosystems to agriculture.

Land under cultivation is defined by FAO as land under temporary crops (double-cropped areas are counted once), temporary meadows for mowing or for pasture, land under market or kitchen gardens, and land temporarily fallow.1 Forest area is land under natural or planted stands of trees, excluding tree stands in agricultural production systems (e.g. plantations or agroforestry systems) and trees in urban parks and gardens.


This indicator can be disaggregated spatially. It should also distinguish between primary or natural forest, and secondary, degraded, or replanted forest.

Comments and limitations:

The indicator could be expanded to also include wetlands or other critical ecosystems.2 This indicator will likely be replaced by the Ecosystem Red List Index, which will be ready globally in a few years.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Remote sensing/satellite.

Potential lead agency or agencies: