View of a tree in a deforested area in the middle of the Amazon jungle. (Raphael Alves/AFP/Getty Images)
With the growth of the world’s population and continuing deforestation, trees have become increasingly viewed as a valuable global asset. And on Wednesday, a surprising study published in Nature found that the Earth has more trees than previously thought.
As The Washington Post Chris Mooney reported, the study revealed that there are 422 trees for every person on Earth. That’s 3.04 trillion trees, or eight times more than previously estimated.
What that means, according to a conservation biologist interviewed by Mooney, is that there are not more forests but more trees in them and more importantly it doesn’t change our understanding of the rates of deforestation.
[Scientists discover that the world contains dramatically more trees than previously thought]
“My fear is that a lot of people might think, ‘OK, well, there’s loads of trees, so who cares about the environment, there’s plenty left! No worries!’ What I’d highlight is that it’s not like we’ve discovered new trees. We’ve just generated a new number that will help us to understand the global forest,” Thomas Crowther, lead author on the study told NPR.
“We can now say that there’s less trees than at any point in human civilization,” Crowther told The Post. “Since the spread of human influence, we’ve reduced the number almost by half, which is an astronomical thing.”
Tree stumps in a recently deforested natural forest being developed for a pulp and paper plantation in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia in 2014. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
But what Crowther also points out is that the research will help determine how many trees need to be planted to regenerate forests. “Based on this, they really want to upscale their efforts hugely,” Crowther told NPR, referring to the Billion Tree Campaign run by the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation. “Their goal is now to plant a trillion trees.”
So where are the trees most needed? According to a study released in April by the World Wildlife Foundation as much as 170 million hectares (or roughly 420 million acres) of forest could be lost by 2030. The study named 11 “deforestation fronts” or forest areas where the largest concentrations of deforestation are expected in the next 15 years . According to the study, these fronts are home to endangered species and to indigenous communities whose livelihoods may be a stake.
Here is a look at some of the world’s most at risk forests:
View of a deforested area in the middle of the Amazon jungle in 2014. (Raphael Alves/AFP via Getty Images)
Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco
View of native forests and land cleansed for agriculture in Bella Vista, province of Salta, northwest Argentina. (Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images)
This photograph taken on February 24, 2014 during an aerial survey mission by Greenpeace at East Kotawaringin district in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo Island, shows cleared trees in a forest located in the concession of Karya Makmur Abadi which is being developed for a palm oil plantation. (Bay Ismoyo/AFP via Getty Images)
A soybean field in the Cerrado plains near Campo Verde, Mato Grosso state, western Brazil on January 30, 2011. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images)
A man bathes in a river at dawn in the Darien province on the border with Colombia, in Union Choco, Panama in 2012. (Arnulfo Franco/AP)
Members of the Baka Pygmy tribe, the original forest dwellers of the Cameroon forests in Kika, Cameroon in 2010. Logging roads and subsequent small towns created by logging concessions are bringing men and infrastructure further into the forest of Cameroon severely threatening the great forests of the Congo Basin. (Brent Stirton/Getty Images)
The strait between Lamu island and the mainland in eastern Kenya in 2014. (Dai KuroKawa/ European Pressphoto Agency)
Sugar cane and other crops can be seen on farms near the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 9, 2015. (David Gray/Reuters)
One green tree left in hills of burnt out brown and deforested land, near Mae Chaem, northern Thailand, in 2012. (Barbara Walton/European Pressphoto Agency)
Papuan workers collect teakwood at Sentani forest in Indonesia’s Papua province June 23, 2006. They are paid $55 from the owner of the land to cut 50 trees. Papua is home to some of Asia Pacific’s largest undamaged forests. (Oka Barta/Reuters)
A forest activist inspects land clearing and drainage on deforested land being developed for a pulp and paper plantation in Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia in 2014. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)