By Meg Lowman Ph.D., Science Advisor to Earthwatch
Even though the official United Nations “Year of the Forest” was eight years ago in 2011, the year 2019 has without doubt been The Year of the Tree, a transformational time that has highlighted the global importance of trees, with millions of citizens getting a bit muddy in the process. This year, Ethiopia made the Guinness Book of World Records with a citizen science community exercise of planting over 352 million trees during a 12-hour span. Less than one month later, the region Uttar Pradesh in India planted 220 million trees in one day, representing approximately one tree for every resident of that state. In both countries, citizens participated in these massive plantings, digging holes and watering seedlings.
In scientific circles, several recent publications have spotlighted tree-planting as an effective, relatively inexpensive solution to the climate change crisis, because trees can absorb much of the carbon dioxide that people pollute. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology published a report that the planet could support an extra 2.2 billion acres of tree cover, using lands currently underutilized or areas where forests were cleared. They further claim that, over time, these newly planted trees can remove about two-thirds of the estimated 330 billion tons of carbon spewed into the atmosphere by humans since the Industrial Revolution.
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