A new mapping tool has discovered that 467 million hectares of previously considered barren land is actually covered in forest. That’s equivalent to 60 per cent of Australia’s land mass.
The research was conducted using a new photo-interpretation tool called ‘Collect Earth’. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and scientists from the University of Adelaide headed the research. Andrew Lowe from the University of Adelaide explains:
In the modern digital age we think we know everything about the Earth, but a lot of that knowledge comes from satellite imagery, like Google Earth, but when you use that type of satellite data, you have to make estimations on what type of vegetation occurs on the ground.
And many of those estimations have been proven wrong by the new tool. The new tool also has the potential to help minimise the negative effects of climate change.
"We know that forests sequester huge amounts of carbon, so increasing the area of forest globally helps explain additional carbon sequestration opportunities that are available," Professor Lowe said.
Essentially researchers can conserve the new forests while gathering information on how they deal with carbon. Depending on the results, this could potentially re-evaluate the global carbon budget. However, it’s crucial to keep monitoring the health of these forests, now that researchers know they are there.
Image: The world’s drylands: forested areas shown in green; non-forested areas in yellow. Bastin et al., Science (2017)
The new study has found ‘new’ forests on every continent. From the Sahara desert to coastal Australia, South Africa, central India, America, the Mediterranean, South America, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Canada and Russia.
Image: Boabs in Africa, source: shutterstock
The most astounding discoveries, however, were found in Africa where the number of forests previously estimated has doubled.
Header: Pilbara, source: shuttertsock