Scientists at the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have called on policymakers and environmentalists to plant trees to mitigate climate change.
In their latest study the researchers show where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store. Lead author Jean-François Bastin commented, “One aspect was of particular importance to us as we did the calculations: we excluded cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.”
Under current climate conditions, the researchers say the earth’s land could support 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover; 1.6 billion more than the currently existing 2.8 billion hectares. Of these 1.6 billion hectares, 0.9 billion hectares of land is not currently used by humans. In other words, an area of the size of the US is available for tree restoration.
Once mature, these new forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon: about two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.
Prof. Thomas Crowther, co-author of the study, commented, “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage.”
Photo Caption: The study shows where trees can be planted around the world so as not to interfere with urban or agricultural areas.
Photo Credit: The Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich