A new global analysis has discovered 467 million hectares of previously unreported forests. This amounts to an area equivalent to 60% of the size of Australia.
This new identification means the known amount of global forest cover has risen by 9% and will bolster estimates of how much carbon is stored in trees worldwide.
The research was headed by The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and scientists from the University of Adelaide.
The new forests were found in previously-thought barren drylands – areas where plants receive far less water in precipitation than they lose. These arid areas contain 45% more forest than has been found in earlier surveys.
The forests were found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean, India, Australia, western South America, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, and northern parts of Canada and Russia. Impressively, the amount of known dryland forest in Africa has doubled!
How The Forests Were Found
Advancements in satellite imaging technology and mapping techniques mean detection of these are now far easier. Dryland forests were previously difficult to measure globally because of the low density of trees and lower resolution satellite imagery.
Andrew Lowe from the University of Adelaide explains: “In the modern digital age, we think we know everything about the earth, but a lot of that knowledge comes from satellite imagery, like google earth. But when you use that type of satellite data, you have to make estimations on what type of vegetation occurs on the ground.” And many of those estimations have been proven wrong by the new tool.
The recent findings bring potentially far-reaching benefits. The arid lands analysed have more capacity to support trees than previously realized, which is significant as they make up about 40% of the Earth’s land surface. Some climate models suggest these dryland ecosystems could continue to expand by 11 – 23% by the end of this century – meaning they could cover more than half of Earth’s land surface.
Here lies a unique chance to combat climate change. Given the potential of these woodlands to mitigate desertification and combat climate change by storing carbon, it will be vital to continue monitoring the health of these forests, now their existence is known and technology can aid the effort.
This discovery can lead to improving the accuracy of models used to calculate how much carbon is stored in the earth’s natural environments. This means being able to better calculate carbon budgets and enabling countries to measure their progress towards targets.
Drylands contain some of the most threatened, yet disregarded, ecosystems. Climate change will cause many of these regions to become hotter and even drier, while human expansion could degrade these landscapes yet further. The hope is that the enthusiasm surrounding this comprehensive discovery leads to determination to protect, promote and conserve these unlikely new additions in the fight against climate change.
- Be a part forest expansion by planting your own tree on National Tree Day, July 30, 2017, or Schools Tree Day, July 28.
- Join a local bush regeneration or conservation group to preserve the natural environment in your area:
- Ensure your wood products are FSC certified (if in Australia, or equivalent in your country), to ensure protection of forests.
Subscribe to Positive Environment News.
Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.