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Earth: 3 Trillion Trees, but Disappearing Fast

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Katie Byng-Hall talks about the carbon captures of our ecosystems and their critical importance.

Photo by Radek Grzybowski

A recent study by the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University has found that there are 3.04 trillion trees on Earth, 422 for every human on the planet, including 3 billion growing in the UK.

However, the research has also found that 15 billion trees are lost every year due to deforestation, forest management and changes in land use – the Earth’s population of trees is being severely threatened.

It is undeniable that humanity has had a detrimental effect on Earth’s trees. Since human civilisation began 11,700 years ago, the number of trees on the planet has dropped by 46%. As Thomas Crowther, leader of the study, has said, “we’ve nearly halved the number of trees on the planet, and we’ve seen the impacts on climate and human health”.

Benefits Trees Bring

As well as being beautiful, there are a multitude of factors which make trees invaluable for us, the planet, and the animals we share the planet with.

  • Trees absorb huge amount of carbon dioxide which would otherwise be polluting the atmosphere.

  • An acre of matured trees provides enough oxygen to supply 18 people for a whole year.

  • Trees provide food for humans as well as most birds and wildlife.They are a habitat for numerous species of animals and insects.

  • Trees help prevent soil erosion by slowing the flow of rainwater down slopes.

  • Thomas Crowther: trees are “essential for the cycling of nutrients”.

These benefits cannot be replicated by any manmade system or robot: trees are irreplaceable in most aspects of life as we know it.

Saving the Trees

Deforestation is continually on the increase in an attempt to accommodate for our excessive commercial habits and demands. More than 20% of the Amazon Rainforest has been destroyed forever for the sake of industrial development, predominantly cattle farming. This decimation has to stopped and counteracted.

In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme launched a campaign called the Billion Trees Campaign which aimed to plant 1 billion trees across the world by the end of 2007. After a decade of encouraging individuals, companies, and countries to participate, the scheme led to the planting of 14.2 billion trees by 2016.

Movements of mass awareness-raising and significant action such as the Billion Trees Campaign are desperately needed to save the Earth’s three trillion trees before it’s too late, both for the environment, and for us.


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