To add to all the benefits of trees already known to us—beauty, shade, health, safety, well-being, and even classroom and office creativity and productivity— researchers in Zurich, Rome and Montpellier have identified significant climate benefits. Mapping the Earth’s tree current canopy and its carrying capacity, they determined that reforestation wherever possible would be “the most effective solution at our disposal to mitigate climate change.”
The researchers conclude that “the restoration of forested land at a global scale could help capture atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change.” Bastin et al. used direct measurements of forest cover to generate a model of forest restoration potential across the globe (see the Perspective by Chazdon and Brancalion). Their spatially explicit maps show how much additional tree cover could exist outside of existing forests and agricultural and urban land. Ecosystems could support an additional 0.9 billion hectares of continuous forest. This would represent a greater than 25% increase in forested area, including more than 500 billion trees and more than 200 gigatonnes of additional carbon at maturity. Such a change has the potential to cut the atmospheric carbon pool by about 25%.”
Their findings published July 5th in the leading journal Science have been widely covered, including an article yesterday in the New York Times and last week in The Guardian. To dig into the maps they generated, readers can go to senior author Thomas Crowther’s lab, The Crowther Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Zürich, and explore global reforestation potential: https://www.crowtherlab.com/maps-2/.
Closer to home, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks is actively engaged in park reforestation; City Plants, a public-private partnership funded by the L.A. Department of Water and Power, works with non-profits and City departments to plant trees in low canopy neighborhoods; the Los Angeles Beautification Team (LABT) along with other programs, plants trees and partners with schools, and TreePeople gathers volunteers to expand tree canopy across LA as well as the mountain and wilderness areas of Southern California.
Standing in the shade of a tree this summer is a direct reminder of the many individual, collective and planetary benefits of trees. This could be a good time to get involved in expanding our canopy and enhancing our climate.
This story was updated to correctly identify the cedar deodar tree in the second photo. Thanks to Buzz reader Ann Rubin for the correction!