How many trees are there on the planet?
It almost sounds like a rhetorical question, doesn’t it? Surely nobody could in reality count the amount of trees there are in the world, right?
Researchers behind a study published in Nature have done just that.
Okay, well not really — although, that would be quite the summer job. The researchers used measurements of tree density from each continent excluding forest-less Antarctica to create a global map of forests across the globe, among other advanced methods.
The figure they arrived at was 3.04 trillion — roughly 400 trees for every person currently alive, ‘trees’ referring to a plant with a stem that is at least 10 centimeters wide at chest height.
This number was previously estimated to be around 400 billion – drastically lower than the actual count.
Scientists attribute this significant discrepancy to the inaccuracy of previous counting methods, which relied on satellite technology that cannot make out individual trees in large forested areas.
See how it might be a challenge? Satellite imagery is excellent for harvesting information about canopy cover, but the methods used by researchers for this particular study are much more helpful to determine what is happening below that cover.
But what’s even more staggering about the amount of trees that are currently alive on the planet is the number of trees that we’ve cut down.
“The number of trees cut down is almost 3 trillion since the start of human civilization,” says Thomas Crowther, lead author of the aforementioned study. “That is an astronomical figure.”
“If you do the math, the net loss is about one-third of a percent of all trees globally,” says Harry Glick, a Yale postdoctoral student who also worked on the study.
This all becomes even more astonishing when you consider just how recent our ‘arrival’ on this planet was – roughly 200,000 years ago.
The team behind the study estimates that we are losing approximately 15 billion trees per year, only 5 billion of which end up being replaced — 10 billion overall.
And this isn’t a small deal, either. Trees are absolutely vital to the health of our planet. They house many species of animals and cycle various nutrients throughout ecosystems. They are also, perhaps the most important thing to our survival, as they turn carbon dioxide into oxygen that we and billions of other living beings can breathe.
I don’t know about you, but this information leaves me stunned. On the one hand, there are that many trees in the world?! Incredible! On the other, we’ve killed that many?
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation is a nonprofit charity dedicated to planting edible, fruitful trees and plants to benefit the environment and all its inhabitants. Our primary mission is to plant and help others plant a collective total of 18 billion fruit trees across the world (approximately 3 for every person alive) and encourage their growth under organic standards.
So what are you waiting for? Please plant a tree today!