How Many Trees Are There? By: Steve Roark TN Dept. Agriculture, Forestry Division

tree-in-hand-2Satellites peering down at the Earth are providing some amazing information about our planet’s soil, water, and plant life.  One interesting bit of trivia is that scientists have figured out is approximately how many trees there are on the planet


Trees reflect sunlight in very specific patterns, making it possible for satellites to map and computers to calculate all the land area that is growing trees.  Biologists then sampled over 400 thousand site to determine average tree density, average size, etc., crunched the numbers, and came up with an estimation of how many trees there are.  So the latest estimate is that there are (drum roll please) 3,040,000,000,000 trees on the planet.  Three trillion, forty billion trees, roughly 400 trees per person based on recent population estimates. Cool, huh?


So where are they? Growing conditions change as you move from the equator to the polar regions, and so forests are broadly categorized as tropical (hot and humid), temperate (not too hot, not too cold; that’s us), and boreal (cold).  Surprisingly the densest area with the most trees per unit area is the frigid boreal forest located in Canada, Russia, and norther China. But overall the boreal region only has 24% of the planet’s trees. The temperate forest region where we live has around 22%, while the lion’s share of forest land is the tropics, coming in at 44%.


So this begs the question: is 400 trees each enough?  We humans consume a lot of trees for baseball bats, barrels, books, benches, coffee filters, guitars, grocery bags, pencils, candy wrappers, chewing gum, cork, crayons, egg cartons, flooring, furniture,  houses, newspaper, ping-pong balls, chopsticks, rubber, tires, toilet paper,… get the picture.  Americans, the world’s foremost consumers, each use around 7 mature trees a year in products.   So will we eventually use up or allotment?  If trees were like oil or gas I would say yes because there’s only so much of it.  But trees have the added value of being a renewable resource.  We can plant more and through good management grow more wood per acre. But the trend is that as human population goes up, acres of forest cover goes down due to conversion to some other land use.  This means we are also losing the intangible tree benefits of oxygen production, soil stabilization, natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat. So the future is a concern. I catch myself worrying about my grandkids a lot.


But, if you’re worried about replacing your allotted 7 trees, go out and plant a few.  It is a noble act that benefits generations after you.  Remember this old proverb: the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is now.



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