This March 18, 2011 picture shows a dense forest of Douglas fir, madrone and oak on a steep hillside on federal forest land outside Ruch, Oregon. Because trees capture and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, widespread reforestation has been considered one of the most effective weapons against climate change.
However, it remains unclear if these restoration goals are achievable because researchers do not know how much tree cover might be possible under current or future climate conditions.
"Every other climate change solution requires that we all change our behaviour, or we need some top-down decision from a politician who may or may not believe in climate change, or it's a scientific discovery we don't yet have", he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Scientists say massive reforestation could capture two-thirds of manmade carbon emissions and reduce overall levels in the atmosphere to their lowest in nearly a century. In their latest study the researchers showed for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store.
After recently publishing the most negative "OMG we're stuffed" post about climate change ever, it is a pleasure to write that we really can cure this, with carbon capture and storage - in trees.
The Crowther Lab website has a global map with advice on which types of trees and how many can be grown in gardens.
Now there are 5.5 billion hectares of forest (defined by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation as land with at least 10% tree cover and without human activity), with a total 2.8 billion hectares of tree canopy cover.
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The study's calculations make sense, said Stanford University environmental scientist Chris Field, who wasn't part of the study. The paper found that the Earth can support 2.2 billion acres (900 million hectares) of trees that would sequester 205 billion tonnes of carbon.
The study, published in the journal Science, analysed the maximum amount of carbon that could be captured if all available degraded forest areas were replanted and allowed to mature.
According to the researchers' calculations, Earth could support an additional 1.6 billion hectares more trees than it now has, to make for a total forest area equaling 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover.
Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China have the most available room for reforestation.
Meanwhile, Dozens of countries have signed on to the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to bring 350 million hectares of the world's deforested land into restoration by 2030. As the authors write, "it remains unclear what proportion of this land is public or privately owned, and so we can not identify how much land is truly available for restoration". "Restoring trees at [low] density is not mutually exclusive with grazing". It also offers lists of forest restoration organizations. 2019. The global tree restoration potential. This was made possible because of a unique global dataset of forest observations and the free mapping software of Google Earth Engine. The researchers modelled two climate scenarios - one where emissions rise rapidly and another where they peak by mid-century and start to decline - to see how habitable those areas would actually be for trees.
As Earth warms, and namely because the tropics dry, tree veil is being misplaced, he noted. The lab enhances climate predictions by pairing top-down satellite data with the largest set of ground-sourced data. To contact the author, please use the contact details within the article.