Humans are responsible for the removal of 15 billion trees a year, at least according to a group of scientists tasked with assessing how many trees there are and their rate of destruction.
In total, the Earth is home to slightly more than 3 trillion trees, but at the dawn of human civilization, that number was much closer to 6 trillion.
Researchers used satellite imagery and data from almost 430,000 different plots of trees in 50 different countries on every continent, excluding Antarctica.
Tropical and subtropical zones give home to about 1.4 trillion of the 3 trillion trees, while boreal forests in the north contain three quarters of a trillion.
Forests are critically important for the health of our planet. They manufacture new soil, play a role in the water cycle, and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Trees are among the most prominent and critical organisms on Earth, yet we are only recently beginning to comprehend their global extent and distribution,” says Thomas Crowther, an ecologist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and lead author of the study.
“They store huge amounts of carbon, are essential for the cycling of nutrients, for water and air quality, and for countless human services.”
“Yet you ask people to estimate, within an order of magnitude, how many trees there are and they don’t know where to begin. I don’t know what I would have guessed, but I was certainly surprised to find that we were talking about trillions.”