More and more trees

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More trees than there were 100 years ago? It’s true!

By: Starre Vartan

February 9, 2011

In the United States, which contains 8 percent of the world’s forests, there are more trees than there were 100 years ago. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940s. By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920.” The greatest gains have been seen on the East Coast (with average volumes of wood per acre almost doubling since the ’50s) which was the area most heavily logged by European settlers beginning in the 1600s, soon after their arrival.

 This is great news for those who care about the environment because trees store CO2, produce oxygen — which is necessary for all life on Earth — remove toxins from the air, and create habitat for animals, insects and more basic forms of life. Well-managed forest plantations like those overseen by the Forest Stewardship Council also furnish us with wood, a renewable material that can be used for building, furniture, paper products and more, and all of which are biodegradable at the end of their lifecycle.The increase in trees is due to a number of factors, including conservation and preservation of national parks, responsible tree growing within plantations — which have been planting more trees than they harvest — and the movement of the majority of the population from rural areas to more densely populated areas, such as cities and suburbs. Tree planting efforts begun in the 1950s are paying off and there is more public awareness about the importance of trees and forests. Finally, 63 percent of the forest land in the United States is privately owned, and many landowners are leaving their land intact instead of using it for agriculture or logging (at least partially because many of these activities have shifted overseas).

Quantity over quality?

The average age of forests in the United States is younger than it was before European settlement.

Read the full story: Mother Nature Network

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.