How Long Until There Are No More Trees?
Sep 18 2015 Read 13246 Times
Alarming new research conducted by Dr Thomas Crowther at Yale University in Connecticut, USA, has predicted that if we continue our current rate of deforestation, the Earth will be completely barren of trees in just over 300 years.
The study, published in the science journal Nature, estimates that there are currently three trillion trees on the planet. That figure sounds comfortably high – until you understand that we are uprooting 15 billion trees every year and only replanting around five billion. With a net annual loss of 10 billion trees, year on year, we can expect Earth to be totally treeless by 2319.
Inflated Estimate No Cause for Celebration
The latest estimate of three trillion trees is actually eight times greater than previous figures. However, since the number of trees being removed is also higher than assumed, this inflation of the numbers does not actually change anything.
“It's not like we've discovered a load of new trees; it's not like we've discovered a load of new carbon. So, it's not good news for the world or bad news that we've produced this new number,” explained Dr Crowther to the BBC. “We're simply describing the state of the global forest system in numbers that people can understand and that scientists can use, and that environmental practitioners or policymakers can understand and use.”
Indeed, the research has yielded figures that should be of interest not just to scientists and environmentalists, but to everyone on Earth. In fact, the study predicts that we are losing around 0.333% of the total tree population every year – a figure high enough to make people sit up and pay attention.
Unfortunately, the growing trend among people today appears to show that individuals care more about pop stars like Beyonce than they do about deforestation – which betrays a sorry state of affairs for the future of our planet. Not only are trees being uprooted for agricultural and industrial reasons, but the proliferation of fossil fuels and the unwanted effects of global warming are also translating into more widespread and more frequent natural disasters, such as forest fires and strong winds. The article Forests Under Threat from Climate Change delves into more detail about the underlying causes of this seemingly organic deforestation.
Half of the Trees Gone Since the Ice Age
What has surfaced from the study is the massive impact humans are having on the tree population. When compared with estimates of tree coverage from the past, it appears that since the most recent Ice Age (around 11,000 years ago), the tree population has been cut in half.
“Europe used to be almost covered by one giant forest and now it's almost entirely fields and grasslands. Humans are absolutely controlling tree densities,” said Dr Crowther.
The study is unlikely to be the final one carried out on the number of remaining trees on our shores, and it’s entirely possible that the three trillion count will be found to be as far off the mark as the previous estimate of 400 billion. However, one thing is certain – we are decimating our supply of oxygen at a disturbing rate.
Image Source: World Bank Photo Collection
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