Aerial view of a forest
Around 0.9 billion hectares of land worldwide would be suitable for reforestation, which could ultimately capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions.
Photo: Shutterstock

15.07.2019

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Global temperatures could rise 1.5° C above industrial levels by as early as 2030 if current trends continue, but trees could help stem this climate crisis. A new analysis finds that adding nearly one billion additional hectares of forest could remove two-thirds of the roughly 300 gigatons of carbon humans have added to the atmosphere since the 1800s.

In their latest study, researchers Jean-Francois Bastin and Tom Crowther of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) have shown for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store.

The researchers are working in the Crowther Lab at ETH, where they are investigating nature-based solutions to climate change.

Study lead author Jean-François Bastin explains: “One aspect was of particular importance to us as we did the calculations: we excluded cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.”

Forest restoration is the best climate change solution

The researchers calculated that under the current climate conditions, Earth’s land could support 4.4 billion hectares of continuous tree cover. That is 1.6 billion more than the currently existing 2.8 billion hectares. Of these 1.6 billion hectares, 0.9 billion hectares fulfil the criterion of not being used by humans.

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