Many years ago I visited the Redwood National Park in California. Since then I have been in the Borneo jungles, the Amazon rainforest, the Alpine conifer woods and many of our UK and European woodland habitats. Without exception they are impressive wonders of nature. But our once much more afforested world has been losing its trees at an alarming rate. We all know about the horror story of the Amazon rain forest, but tree loss is a worldwide problem as we take more and more land for crops and urbanisation in an overpopulated world. We are losing about 10 billion (thousand million i.e. 109) trees a year world-wide from an estimated population of 3 trillion (3x1012) trees. Overpopulation by us humans is, in my view, the biggest problem, though I know many disagree and it is fraught with emotive rancour or helpless resignation by politicians, or more often simply ignored by them.
Columbian Amazon jungle taken from the river. (Photo by the author.)
So it is cheering to have news from Professor Tom Crowther at the Crowther Lab in a paper by him with Jean-Francois Bastin and colleagues at the of the Swiss university Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (published in the journal Science) of something to which we can all relate and to which we can contribute in a practical and relatively simple fashion – growing loads of trees. And I do mean loads: at least 1.2x1012 (1.2 trillion) trees would be needed to be allowed to grow or be planted (in native mixed stands) over the 1.7x109 (1.7 billion) hectares of available treeless land in the world the research identified. That’s about 11% of all land, to reverse the current losses and attain maximum tree cover to combat climate change. This, the researchers say, after extensive analysis of the world’s land-use from 80,000 Google Earth satellite images and analysis to avoid urban and crop areas, etc., is “overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed” for absorbing excess carbon from the atmosphere.
Tropical forest, Borneo. (Photo by the author.)
Although it obviously takes time for trees to grow, many scientists agree that this is a realistic, cost-effective and very probably the most efficient way to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and thus halt the global warming that is increasingly threatening us all. Worryingly, we hear that this view is not shared by President Trump and his environmentally unaware followers (of whom we regrettably have more than a few amongst the Brexiteers in the UK) who apparently thinks climate change is “a joke”. Nonetheless, perhaps even they will not object to gracing our planet with the beauty of many more trees and forests and the wildlife they support. Let us hope so, because this could start immediately and begin to capture the billions of tonnes of carbon we need to remove from the Earth’s atmosphere.
Young woodland on one of our Worcester sites that we are allowing to spread and regenerate. (Photo by the author.)
Don’t worry – Betts Ecology are not going to reduce their sunlight-flooded species-rich conservation grasslands because these, too, are of huge importance to biodiversity and the ecosystems services that support us and our planet’s ecological health – and left undisturbed, they also absorb carbon into the soil.
There are exciting opportunities for us to encourage and plant more trees, often as part of our rewilding programme that we operate on our sites, creating groves, spinneys and woodlands in a sylvan Green Infrastructure connected by tall, wide native hedgerows in which some trees will also be encouraged to grow. This we shall do, and everyone can help by planting more trees and supporting our rewilding and habitat conservation work.
© Betts Ecology