Environment

Millions of hectares of forest discovered hiding in plain sight

Millions of hectares of forest...
Drylands cover 40 percent of the Earth's surface, and new research reveals that they are better at supporting forests than once thought
Drylands cover 40 percent of the Earth's surface, and new research reveals that they are better at supporting forests than once thought
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Drylands cover 40 percent of the Earth's surface, and new research reveals that they are better at supporting forests than once thought
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Drylands cover 40 percent of the Earth's surface, and new research reveals that they are better at supporting forests than once thought

Scientists have discovered a whopping 467 million hectares of previously unreported forest scattered around the world, a finding that they say could have a big impact on global carbon budgeting moving forward. The finding boosts estimates of global forest coverage by 10 percent, and changes our understanding of how well drylands, where these forests happen to be situated, can support trees.

It's not that these forests were hidden away in deep valleys or remote mountain regions. An international team of scientists discovered the new forests be re-examining previously surveyed drylands around the world. The problem with these previous surveys, the scientists say, is that the low density of trees paired with the reliance on low-res satellite images and no ground validation provided inaccurate measurements.

This time around, the scientists tapped the vastly improved satellite imagery from Google Earth, which covered more than 210,000 dryland sites, and ground data gathered by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network to carry out a new global analysis of dryland forest cover.

According to the results, drylands contain 45 percent more forest than the previous surveys had suggested. The new coverage is equivalent to 60 percent the size of Australia, with new forest uncovered on all inhabited continents and Africa doubling the size of its known dryland forests.

"To 'find' an area of forest that represents 10 percent of the global forest cover is very very significant, with broad consequences for global carbon budgeting and dryland restoration and management," says Professor Andrew Lowe, Chair of Plant Conservation Biology at the University of Adelaide. "It shows that dryland regions have a greater capacity to support trees than previously perceived and understood. With its low opportunity costs, dryland could therefore provide a unique chance to mitigate climate change through large-scale conservation and afforestation actions. It also shows the potential for improved livelihoods of the people in these areas."

Drylands currently make up around 40 percent of the world's land surface, and could expand by 11 to 23 percent by the end of this century, the researchers write in The Conversation citing current climate modeling. Finding that these regions can support more trees and in turn store more carbon, could therefore be very useful knowledge for conservationists mapping out strategies for the coming decades.

The research was published in the journal Science.

Source: University of Adelaide

12 comments
MD
Sometimes boots on the ground is a good idea.
exodous
Surprise surprise, environmental 'scientists' have under-reported the about of forests on the earth. I bet you anything the guy or gal that discovered pointed it out was one of those dreaded deniers. It was probably noticed before but wasn't reported because environmental 'scientists' want us to be panicked at the time.
RandallBrackett
But the forest science is settled! Clearly these guys are small-global-forest deniers. 97% of Plant Conservation Scientists agree that the 'updated' dry land forest estimates are clearly funded by the logging lobby, in order to justify additional harvesting.
Adrian Pineda
It just goes to show how ignorant all the worlds Professors and Environmental Scientists have been, for this entire century and into the last. I'll be waiting to see who is first to admit they were wrong in their teachings, published articles, books and Earth Day protests. Not to mention all those people given an AA/AS, BA and Ph.D's based on factually wrong statistics and information. I think it will be a long wait.
Kpar
Thanks, exodous and RandallBrackett, for pointing out what I was thinking while reading this article. Good on ya.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
On the plus side, these trees represent sequestered carbon. On the minus side, they increase path length precipitable water and lower the earth's albedo. Path length precipitable water becomes important in the desert.
RioNidoSanClementes
I don't believe many of these areas of trees meet the technical definition of a forest, in which most of the tree tops must be touching each other., providing a continuous canopy. They are more likely to be woodlands (further spaced apart, fewer trees with quite a lot of sun reaching the ground, or even savannas-grass lands with widely spaced trees. The trees are also very small & stunted looking, so they're not going to sequester nearly the amount of carbon that a forest in Canada or Brazil would. I'm very curious to know who funded this study.
ljaques
Thanks, exodous and RandallBrackett, for pointing out what I was thinking while reading this article. I'm wondering if the forest deniers were also overlooking the vast petrified forests, too. Talk about hardline carbon sinks...
MK23666
Yeaaaaaaa! Climate scientists got it wrong on forest numbers and have to re-calibrate their climate change estimates. 10% more forest discovered ... doesn't that make the condition actually worse tho?
MartinVoelker
The glee with which commenters make the wrong conclusion that this somehow means you can't trust scientists shows they don't understand how science works. In science you can only work with the data that is available and when new data becomes available it improves our understanding. Meanwhile budgets for data gathering from NASA, NOAA or NCAR are threatened.