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How many trees shall we fell before they are all gone?

Nihar Gokhale | Updated on: 7 September 2015, 19:06 IST

Afforestation is the new buzzword in environmental policy. Everyone seems to want to plant a sapling. To clear any forest for industrial projects, it is necessary to plant more trees somewhere else.

But a recent global study shows that such efforts just don't add up. In fact, we have missed the mark by a long shot - for every three trees cut down, we are planting just one. At this rate, there may be no trees left in just three centuries. According to the research:


  • That's the total number of trees in the world - 422 trees per person


  • or nearly half the trees are in tropical forests. A quarter are in the picturesque Boreal forests around the Arctic Circle


  • trees are cut each year. But only about 5 billion trees are planted. So the world loses 10 billion trees every year - about 2 per person
tree prime number icd

Illustration: ICD/Catch News


  • is the the number of years our trees will last at the current rate. Planting more trees will defer the deadline


  • trees have been planted around the world over five years, under the United Nations' 'Plant A Billion Trees' campaign. That's 2.6 billion trees a year, but we need 15 billion


  • trees have been cut down since the dawn of the human civilisation 12,000 years ago
  • The study was conducted by scholars at Yale University, and published on 2 September in Nature. The research adopted a new technique to count trees
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Illustration: ICD/Catch News

  • Previous studies had analysed only satellite images. This one additionally made measurements from 4.3 lakh forests in over 50 countries, making this the most extensive study on trees so far
  • See this video from Nature for more

First published: 4 September 2015, 19:57 IST
Nihar Gokhale @nihargokhale

Nihar is a reporter with Catch, writing about the environment, water, and other public policy matters. He wrote about stock markets for a business daily before pursuing an interdisciplinary Master's degree in environmental and ecological economics. He likes listening to classical, folk and jazz music and dreams of learning to play the saxophone.