Scientists from more than twenty countries have counted the total number of trees on Earth and came to about three trillion. That sounds like a lot, and it is indeed seven times more than earlier estimates, but it is half the number that used to be around before the invention of the ax. And it is not done going down. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that around 50 THOUSAND square miles of forest is cleared each year. That is 15 billion trees, or thirty thousand a minute – picture about 36 football fields.
This is not at all a good thing. We really need more trees, not less. Not just because about a quarter of the world’s population depends on forests for their livelihood, but also because trees soak up carbon dioxide, a.k.a. CO2 and produce oxygen in return. About 15% of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide is due to deforestation.
Of particular concern is the disappearance of tropical forests, which account for about 40% of all the worlds tree cover, because they contain much of the world’s biodiversity. 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared in the past half-century, most of it to make room for cattle ranching. That is a double whammy, because cattle emits quite a lot of methane, a.k.a. CH4, which depletes the ozone layer. The rest fell to mining and the demand for precious woods.
The study, published in Nature magazine, did not actually discover new trees, but took into account that forests vary greatly in density by region and applied these data to satellite imagery. The study also revealed that the impact of human activity on tree density is substantially greater than previously assumed.
There were no figures on tree density in our neck of the woods, but it is probably in the bottom 20%. Luckily, there is something we can do about that! Plant some! It is going to be a long road back to pre-ax levels, but, as the proverb says, the longest journey begins with a single step. It is particularly easy when you’re a TEP customer: under TEP’s ‘Trees for Tucson’ program, you can purchase three trees a year for a minimal amount, mainly to cover transportation. Also, you can join or even organize a Green Team to plant trees and otherwise beautify your neighborhood through Tucson Clean and Beautiful.
If not for the absorbtion of CO2 or the production of oxygen, do it for the shade!