Planting a trillion* trees could pause climate change, according to new research that also suggests there is enough suitable, available land on Earth to do so.
Trees cool the air, land and water and use up carbon dioxide* in the atmosphere*. Both of these are important things to do to stop or slow global warming, which is what people mean when they talk about climate change.
Until now, it hasn’t been clear whether we could ever plant enough trees to make enough difference.
The research, published in the journal Science, estimates there is enough tree-planting land to achieve a 20-year pause in global warming.
The study also found that mass tree planting would be the most effective and cheapest way to make a difference to the changing climate and that it could remove two thirds of all the carbon emissions* that have been created by human activities.
One of the study’s authors, Jean-Francois Bastin from the Institute of Integrative Biology in Zurich, Switzerland, said mass tree planting would be a win-win solution for the environment.
“When you think about tree restoration, it’s not only about fighting climate change it’s also about maintaining ecosystems,” Dr Bastin told ABC.
“The forests of the world protect 80 per cent of the biodiversity that exists on land.”
More than half of the land identified by the researchers as available and suitable is in just six countries, including Australia.
Russia, the US and Canada were identified as having the most tree-planting land, followed by Australia, then Brazil and China.
The study found:
- There is 1.7 billion hectares of treeless, available land.
- This is about 11 per cent of all land on Earth and is the size of China and the US land areas together.
- On this land, 1.2 trillion native trees could grow.
The researchers excluded land used to grow crops, plus land taken up by towns and cities. They included land used for sheep and cattle to graze, as these animals can benefit from having trees where they graze.
The land identified as suitable for planting included areas that have been logged for timber or burned and cleared for grazing.
Coincidentally, the research was published and made big news all around the world just before Australia’s annual Schools Tree Day on Friday, July 24 and National Tree Day on Sunday, July 26.
National Tree Day has been going since 1996 and has grown to be Australia’s biggest tree planting and nature protection event. It is organised by not-for-profit environmental organisation Planet Ark. Schools, community groups and businesses organise trees, equipment and an event in their area and lots of people get together and plant trees for the day.
Australians have planted more than 25 million trees as part of previous National Tree Days and Schools Tree Days.
To find out how to join National Tree Day or Schools Tree Day visit treeday.planetark.org
- trillion: one thousand billion
- carbon dioxide: a gas usually in the atmosphere in small amounts; we breath it out and plants use it up
- atmosphere: the air around Earth
- emissions: gases given off by something, such as an engine
- What could mass tree planting do to global warming?
- Which countries have most of the available land for tree planting?
- How much land has been identified as available and suitable for tree planting?
- How many trees have been planted as part of the National Trees Day program?
- How do you find out more about National Trees Day or Schools Tree Day?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What Else Could You Do?
What other things do you think can be done to help to stop or slow global warming? Write a list. Next to each action in your list, write sentences explaining how it can help or why it is important.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Geography
Write a letter to a cattle farmer. The purpose of your letter is to convince them to plant more trees on their land. Use information in the story and your own ideas to make your letter as convincing as you can, explaining why using their land to plant more trees would be beneficial and who or what it would benefit.
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Geography
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.
Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Are you planning to plant trees as part of National Tree Day or Schools Tree Day? Apart from helping slow climate change, what other benefits could there be of having more trees? Are there any possible downsides?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.