The First World's Tree Map

Mankind has destroyed half of the world’s forests.

Children and young people are calling for the largest afforestation effort in the history of mankind.

A new study from Yale University states that 9.5 billion trees are lost through deforestation each year, despite the significant afforestation efforts of the Billion Tree Campaign, which has planted 14.2 billion trees over the past eight years.

This study, which was initiated by Plant-for-the-Planet and published on September 2, 2015 in the science journal Nature, also revealed that there are 3.04 trillion trees on earth. That is approximately 7.5 times more than previously thought. However, the total number of trees has decreased by 45.8% since humans began to settle the earth.


(Quelle: Crowther, T. W. et alNature (2015))

“This study demonstrates that we need the biggest push for afforestation in the history of mankind,” says Paulina Sanchez Espinosa (21), president of Plant-for-the-Planet from Mexico. “Each tree absorbs 10 kg CO2 per year. Thus afforestation becomes the most economical, easiest to implement and only globally scalable method of carbon capture and storage.”

A further trillion (1,000 billion) trees would remove 1/4 of CO2 emissions produced by people every year; currently 36 billion metric tons. The children and young people of Plant-for-the-Planet, therefore, call on wealthy people, companies, heads of governments, and all citizens to take part in the Billion Tree Campaign:

“If one thousand multinational companies and billionaires planted one billion trees each, that would already be enough to achieve our goal of one trillion trees by 2020,” says Felix Finkbeiner (17), founder of Plant-for-the-Planet in Germany.

This study supplies the first scientifically proven figures about the number of trees. “Trees are among the most prominent and critical organisms on earth, yet we are only recently beginning to comprehend their global extent and distribution,” said Thomas Crowther, research fellow at Yale University's Forestry & Environmental Studies faculty (F&ES) and lead author of the study.

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Map shows that deforestation isn’t just about the Amazon

When you hear deforestation, you might think Brazil. It’s a fair association: Over the past four decades, upwards of 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down. But Brazil also boasts a relative success story, having reduced deforestation in the Amazon by 70 percent over the past ten years. Instead, new data from a collaboration between Google and the University of Maryland illustrate unprecedented — and until now, largely overlooked — forest loss in Southeast Asia and West Africa, among other hotspots:

The collaboration between the tech behemoth and the Maryland researchers expands the scope of Global Forest Watch, a satellite-driven mapping tool that tracks deforestation around the globe. The new satellite analyses are surprising to many and demonstrate the continuing need for rigorous forest monitoring outside regions of traditional deforestation concern.

“I think the key drivers in these key hotspot areas are a combination of external demand from China and internal issues with governance and control,” says Nigel Sizer of WRI, in a video about the data. “A lot of the clearing is actually illegal in some of these countries.”

Sizer cites rubber plantations in Cambodia as an example of such governance issues. A booming rubber industry needs space in which to operate, and wild forests are often the obvious candidates for clearing plantation space in the Southeast Asian country. But proposed rubber plantations are often covers for illegal timber operations, in which forests are cleared and the wood is sold and exported, but plantations never actually appear. Since the turn of the millennium, Cambodia’s tree cover loss has accelerated faster than any other nation’s. Close to a half million acres of forest are lost every year in the country, with much of this losscoming from ostensibly protected forests.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) launched Global Forest Watch in early 2014, a year that saw a global loss of 45 million acres of tree cover. (Not all tree cover loss, however, is caused by deforestation — forest firestree disease, and plantation harvesting can also be blamed.) The WRI mapping tool itself — which is pretty incredible — tracks changes in tree cover and land use and allows citizens and journalists to geotag deforestation stories. The group aspires to leverage the tool to expose illegal forest clearing, reports RTCC:

The research is the largest and most up-to-date global dataset for tree cover loss, and shows the promise of cloud computing to help authorities to root out illicit activity.

Satellites can detect areas as small as 30 square metres now, updating global coverage every eight days to track changes, said Matt Hansen at the University of Maryland.

The technology has revolutionised forest surveillance, which before relied on the likes of donor funding for countries to make forest inventories.

Whether or not Google’s deforestation monitoring falls under Alphabet remains, like everything else about Alphabet, an open question.

Google lays bare overlooked deforestation ‘hotspots’, RTCC.