The World Has More Trees Than It Did 35 Years Ago

View of tree from below

More trees now than ever

This might come as a surprise: Worldwide tree cover has grown — not shrunk!

Worldwide tree cover has grown by 2.24 million square kilometers — the size of Texas and Alaska combined — in the last 35 years, according to a paper in the science journal “Nature.”

The World Has More Trees Than Ever
Photograph by Chelsea Bock

By analyzing satellite data, researchers from the University of Maryland assessed agricultural expansion, climate-driven expansion and contraction of ecosystems, and forest clearing and recovery.

Ultimately the study found that tree cover loss in the tropics was dominated by tree cover gain in other regions, driven by agricultural abandonment in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America, rising temperatures allowing forests to grow closer to the north and south poles, and a massive tree-planting program in China.

Good News: More Trees Now Than Ever
Illustration by Carra Sykes for the Goodnewspaper

Sadly, the research also confirms a large-scale loss of our planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems, particularly in the tropical rainforests.

Researchers concluded that 60 percent of all change during the study period were associated with human activity.

While Earth might have more trees than it did 35 years ago, we can’t allow this to mask the reality that some of our planet’s most productive and biodiverse biomes have been damaged, degraded, and destroyed at our own hands.

Replacing natural landscapes with crops or bare land reduces nature’s capacity for sustaining complex ecosystems.

To reduce your impact on deforestation, reduce, reuse, and recycle (in that order), reduce your meat intake, and demand action from politicians to protect our forests so we can enjoy and sustain a green planet for years to come.

What country has the most trees?

Russia leads the world when it comes to total amount of tree cover, according to a 2020 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

It's followed closely by Brazil, Canada, and the United States.

Global Distribution of Forests by Forest Area, 2020
Country Forest Area (Hectares) Percent of World's Forests
Russia 815,000,000 20.1%
Brazil 497,000,000 12.2%
Canada 347,000,000 8.5%
United States 310,000,000 7.6%
China 220,000,000 5.4%
Australia 134,000,000 3.3%

Democratic Republic of the Congo

126,000,000 3.1%
Indonesia 92,000,000 2.3%
Peru 72,000,000 1.8%
India 72,000,000 1.8%
Rest of the World 1,375,000,000  33.9%

A version of this story originally ran in Issue 04 of the Goodnewspaper in May 2018.

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