Scientists discover that the world contains dramatically more trees than previously thought
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In a blockbuster study released Wednesday in Nature, a team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion. That means, the researchers say, that there are 422 trees for every person on Earth.
However, in no way do the researchers consider this good news. The study also finds that there are 46 percent fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans started the lengthy, but recently accelerating, process of deforestation.
“We can now say that there’s less trees than at any point in human civilization,” says Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral researcher at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who is the lead author on the research. “Since the spread of human influence, we’ve reduced the number almost by half, which is an astronomical thing.”
In fact, the paper estimates that humans and other causes, such as wildfires and pest outbreaks, are responsible for the loss of 15.3 billion trees each year – although the authors said at a press conference that perhaps 5 billion of those may grow back each year, so the net loss is more like 10 billion annually.
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