Reports about the forest cover shows that the truth can be explained in many ways. This report clears up the confusion.
The World Forest Inventories were started by FAO in 1948. The information has been mainly based on questionnaires through close co-operation with countries. Since the 1980s, deforestation has received the most attention in the Forest Resources Assessment (FRA). From early on, many in the US argued that FRA should be based on remote sensing (or rather information from NASA). Nowadays, the World Resources Institute (WRI) is the main proponent of this view.
The 2015 Forest Resources Assessment (FRA2015) reported a net deforestation of 3.3 million ha/year. In contrast, a couple of years later, WRI reported a loss of 25 million ha/year, based on Landsat satellites. Many ENGOs were very pleased with this information! However, it should be clarified that WRI did not report about forest but about all tree-covered land. This means that the data included parks and oil palm plantations, but not open forests and forests under regeneration. It should also be pointed out that the data on loss includes clear-cuts in tree-covered areas, apple plantations cleared for regeneration, and areas killed by fires, insects, and storms, in addition to traditional deforestation as a result of change of land use. WRI aims to estimate the level of regeneration, but this information cannot be collected with the help of Landsat satellites.
Learn more about this situation and get clarifications by reading the report The Global Forest and Tree-Cover Situation in 2020 – Facts, Myths, Lies & White Lies, by Reidar Persson.