Study finds huge potential to grow trees, capture carbon emissions

But scientists say planting trees is not a substitute for weaning the world off burning fossil fuels

But scientists say planting trees is not a substitute for weaning the world off burning fossil fuels

Plant trees have the potential to be, two-thirds of the previously man-made climate-damaging Carbon dioxide emissions to be incorporated.

New findings published this week in Science show just how important a role they could play in climate mitigation efforts by calculating "Earth's tree carrying capacity".

"The restoration of ecosystems that could support trees is our main weapon to fight climate change", Jean-François Bastin, the study's lead author from ETH-Zürich, told us in an email. We mapped the global potential tree coverage to show that 4.4 billion hectares of canopy cover could exist under the current climate.

Over decades, the growing trees could suck up almost 830 billion tons (750 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to the study.

The researchers at the Crowther Lab analyzed thousands of satellite images to assess Earth's tree cover and potential to support additional forest areas under the current climate conditions. "Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today". But, he said, tree planting is far more effective because trees take so much carbon dioxide out of the air.

Data released from the US space agency NASA have shown that China led the way in greening on land, thanks to its ambitious tree-planting program and intensive agriculture.

"It is no doubt a monumental project, which is exactly the dimensions of the project of climate alternate".

We have one of the highest rates of tree clearing of any developed country with 25 percent rainforest, 45 percent of open forest, 32 percent woodland forest and 30 percent of mallee forest lost within 200 years, according to the Wilderness Society. "It is vitally important that we protect the forests that exist today, pursue other climate solutions, and continue to phase out fossil fuels from our economies in order to avoid risky climate change".

Prof, Crowther added: "Although government action is essential to make the most of this opportunity, this is a climate solution we can all get involved in and make a tangible impact". Now researchers say the best solution is also the simplest: plant more forests. Crowther and company have given us a new tool to battle a warming planet if people can find the gumption to put it to good use.

The study says those new trees could suck up about as much carbon pollution as humans have spewed in the past 25 years.

"But we must act quickly, because it will take decades until the forests Mature and their potential as a natural CO2-storage exploit", says study leader Tom Crowther. Deforestation not only contributes to an alarming loss of biodiversity, but limits our ability to store carbon in the trees, undergrowth and soil.

Australia is one of six countries that has been flagged as having "tree restoration potential". (Trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it in a process called photosynthesis, which allows them to grow, ultimately storing that carbon in their leaves and other parts.) Russian Federation has the most space at 583,000 square miles (1.5 million square km), followed by the United States at 397,700 square miles (1 million square km), the researchers found.

Ms. Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner, Global Optimism and Former Executive Secretary, UN Climate Convention, also commented: "Finally an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas".

It turns out that while the boreal forest would likely fare OK, tree cover is likely to decline in the tropics as the climate warms.

"Tackling the climate crisis and restoring our forests requires unprecedented levels of co-operation and support at both a local and global level, supported by initiatives such as Trillion Trees that are accelerating delivery on the ground". 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.

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