We had no idea how many trees were on earth, but there were plenty of wild quesses. The September issue of the journal Nature provided much needed answers. Three trillion! There are 7 billion folks walking around, that’s 425 trees per person. Is that a lot of trees per person?
The study theorizes that at the beginning of civilization, there were 6 trillion trees. Yes indeed, half the earth’s trees are no more. The investigators estimate that we are losing 10 billion trees per year. In 150 years, there will only be half again, 1.5 trillion trees. We can count on 10 billion folks walking around 150 years from now. That’s only 150 trees per person. Yikes!
Let’s assume that 150 years ago there were less than 1 billion folks walking around amonst 4.5 trillion trees. Back in the day, there were 4,500 trees per person. We were tree rich, now we are heading towards tree bankrupcy.
What good are trees you ask? They clean water, stabilize climates, build fertile soil, provide food and raw materials, and soak up carbon emmissions to mediate the effects of global warming. You might come to the conclusion that they are one of the most important organisms on earth. They are also beautiful and produce oxygen, you know, the stuff we breathe!
Human activity is the most significant cause of the decline in trees. Currently, 50% of the trees live in tropical and subtropical regions, 25% live in temperate zones, and 25% live in the northern boreal forests. The boreal forests happen to be the most dense, 1 tree per square meter. That’s about a square yard for you nonmetric people. The following map shows the worldwide distribution of trees.
That strip across the top is the boreal forest. My fear is that as the climate warms and the boreal forests dry out, there will be massive wildfires that greatly increase the rate of future tree loss. If you have ever seen a wildfire, you know that dry trees growing close together burn like crazy.
We should have a goal of increasing the number of trees on earth to 4 trillion. As the population grows to 10 billion, that keeps our current ratio of about 400 trees per person intact. Note: I have rounded numbers to make the math more pleasing to the eye without changing the overall gruesome results.
My advise, while trees abound,
Get out there and be amazed…