May 11, 2017 - Energy & Environment

New study reveals 467 million hectacres of unreported forest

FAO / Faidutti

A new study reveals global forest cover is at least 9% higher than previously thought — that amounts to 467 million hectares of forest that haven't ever been reported before.

Why it matters: These forests contain some of the "most threatened, yet disregarded, ecosystems." Plus these forests act as sinks by storing carbon in plants, trees, and soil and keep it from circulating in the atmosphere. These additional hectares of forest are likely to change estimates of how much carbon can be held by Earth's vegetation, which is thought to have an upper limit, according to the IPCC.

Why we're just hearing this: Previous estimates of dryland forests have been disputed due to differences in satellite spatial resolution, mapping techniques, and the definition of forests themselves (for example, how much tree coverage constitutes a forest).

Methodology: The research team used satellite data from Google Earth to examine a sample pool of 213,795 0.5-hectare plots around the world at high-spatial and -time resolutions. The researchers used this sample pool of plots to estimate forest cover over the entire planet.

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