from the world's big
TreeTalk finds rare arboreal treasures among London's common foliage.
- The world's largest urban forest, London counts nearly as many trees as it does people.
- TreeTalk identifies about 700,000 of them, both common species and rarities.
- Explore them yourself, or have the algorithm pick out a route from a starting point of your choice.
World's largest urban forest<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2OTMxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjQ5NTY1Nn0.Te-0FIagy1TkHRULguhFO51Jm_zmMQJghvq3B4ekXKg/img.jpg?width=980" id="56cd2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="29cf0f96e3642b03e5e454605feca778" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bView of London from Sawyer's Hill in Richmond Park." />
View of London from Sawyer's Hill in Richmond Park.
Image: Maxwell Hamilton, CC BY 2.0<p>Did you know that London <a href="https://thestreettree.com/london-is-a-forest/" target="_blank">qualifies as a forest</a>? The UN's <a href="http://www.fao.org/home/en/" target="_blank">Food and Agriculture Organization</a> defines a forest as a contiguous area with at least 10 percent tree canopy cover. Greater London's trees manage more than double that (21 percent). </p><p><span></span>But then there are no less than 8.4 million of the leafy bastards standing around London's 600 square miles – that's almost one for every Londoner. So, it's not entirely surprising that London is, according to the UK's own <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/forestry-commission" target="_blank">Forestry Commission</a>, 'the world's <a href="https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/did-you-know-that-london-is-the-worlds-largest-urban-forest" target="_blank">largest urban forest</a>.'</p><p>Similar to its human inhabitants, London's trees are a cosmopolitan bunch with origins all over the world. No British city has a wider diversity of tree species. You can now explore that diversity in all its glory thanks to <a href="https://www.treetalk.co.uk/" target="_blank">TreeTalk</a>, a web page which identifies 700,000 individual trees throughout Greater London and generates tree walks from the starting point of your choice. </p><p>If you're currently confined to Britain's metropolis, the web page – also available as a smartphone app (<a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.treetalk&pcampaignid=MKT-Other-global-all-co-prtnr-py-PartBadge-Mar2515-1" target="_blank">Android only</a> for now) – is an interesting way to spice up your daily exercise walks and learn a bit about your immediate surroundings. And if you're a London junkie pandemically deprived of a visit, TreeTalk offers a novel way to virtually stroll through your favorite city.<br></p>
Gold-category rarities<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2OTMxNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTQ1MzM3NH0.MaG_6LPFVN6Cu9kMRUCCKsTxXyGozXPOb5Kos8f_vJ0/img.png?width=980" id="b562f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0227f2bae8fd571c2524216b81e5e1d3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A rather rarer import from Wuhan: the Chinese photinia." />
A rather rarer import from Wuhan: the Chinese photinia.
Image: TreeTalk<p>Zoom in and click on any tree; or type in an address or postal code to auto-generate a walking tour of the area. You'll find species that are common as muck, and with just a little bit of luck you'll come across trees in three categories of rarity: bronze (less than 400 specimens throughout the city), silver (75 or less), and gold (10 or less).</p><p>For example, go to Westbourne Gardens, in West London's Paddington area: there you'll find the only four specimens of the <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=chinese+photinia&sxsrf=ALeKk01AtvNc1qX5kcl-WRIHhlJTwdiXAA:1589111198485&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiq5PnDnKnpAhXnzoUKHfbZBI8Q_AUoAXoECDcQAw&biw=1352&bih=654" target="_blank">Chinese photinia</a> that TreeTalk has identified so far in all of London. Widely used as a greening plant in Chinese cities, the tree is omnipresent along all major avenues in Wuhan – yes, that Wuhan. </p><p>Yet Wuhanites are less than keen on the semen-like smell its flowers spread each spring, and some have called for the trees to be replaced. No such complaints seem to have been registered yet by the photinias' Paddingtonian neighbors. <br></p>
Older than the dinosaurs<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2OTMxNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODc2NDQ0OX0.7ViKiTcER7R-5rYeQ0IIHozqCet2bHAoxo11Ej35wgc/img.png?width=980" id="1cb83" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc183cfffcb8a3b607e5272734276d6c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bA tree walk starting and finishing at Cavendish Square, a leafy refuge just off Oxford Circus." />
A tree walk starting and finishing at Cavendish Square, a leafy refuge just off Oxford Circus.
Image: TreeTalk<p>Another example: set your sights on lovely <a href="https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2019/09/30/a-shopping-centre-under-cavendish-square/" target="_blank">Cavendish Square</a>, a small park just off busy Oxford Circus popular with office workers on their lunch break. The square is dominated by London planes (#20 on the map), one of the more common street trees in Central London. </p><p>TreeTalk's auto-generated route around the area leads past common trees like the ash (#1), the chanticleer pear (#3) and the fastigiate Norwegian maple (#6), but also along such rarities as the monkey puzzle tree (#9; only 32 found so far in London), the hackberry (#17; and only 17 in London) and the <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=variegated+wedding+cake+tree&sxsrf=ALeKk03ZJSBOGS2LLDrz8qbOKx8K7xvOaA:1589111407258&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiDkMCnnanpAhWS4YUKHR17Co4Q_AUoAXoECDoQAw&biw=1352&bih=654" target="_blank">variegated wedding cake tree</a> (#11; only 15 in London).</p><p>Less rare but still remarkable are a ginkgo (#4), a species older than the dinosaurs; one of less than 200 olive trees in London (#12); and the tree of heaven (#16), also known as the 'ghetto palm', because it thrives on wasteland.<br></p>
From A to B<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2OTMxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNjc0NjcwNH0.nTM1Y5SmMIw8yvEAd9EcViEDwEgGBZLB3ytt_yWvzGo/img.png?width=980" id="7afb9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e81c9400406b5cdb4318f99a5ad05859" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A walk south of the river, past some of London's rare and common tree species." />
A walk south of the river, past some of London's rare and common tree species.
Image: TreeTalk<p>Yet another option: pick an A and a B, and see which trees connect your walk between both points. Like this amble from London Bridge to Parliament Square, along omnipresent species (and their variants) like ash (#1), lime (#2, #5), maple (#4, #7, #13), birch (#14), and cherry (#16, #17), and rarer ones like the box elder (#3), the Japanese privet (#9), and the <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=portuguese+laurel&sxsrf=ALeKk03LQG2MQ1relSy_Y8siZ-zgsJ5_bQ:1589111576325&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjfpI_4nanpAhXKRBUIHatrDdEQ_AUoAXoECEEQAw&biw=1352&bih=654" target="_blank">Portuguese laurel</a> (#11) – only two of which have been identified in London. <br></p><p>#20 on this walk is, again, a London plane. Ubiquitous in the center, this tree is considered 'native' to the city, but its past is a bit more complicated than that. The species was discovered in the 17th century in a nursery garden in Vauxhall, on the south bank of the Thames. </p>
Plane-splaining<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2OTMxOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA3MDQwNn0.EGrx1GDPjfv5Iluv4aZmQEpvBHPatHE-vUv_EOuH3zw/img.jpg?width=980" id="12cce" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cf099021964689c2f3452f5fdd2b9345" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bLondon planes in Berkeley Square." />
London planes in Berkeley Square.
Image: Justinc, CC BY-SA 2.0<p>'Discovered' is the right word, as it was unknown before. The London plane may be a hybrid between an Oriental plane, brought to Britain in the 16th century, and an American sycamore, imported in the early 17th century. One of each was indeed present in that Vauxhall nursery. </p><p>As it turned out, the 'new' species was well suited to its urban environment: it's not too picky with regard to soil, it requires little root space, and its flaky bark easily sheds pollutants. It flourishes despite pollarding and can grow up to 30 meters tall. <br></p><p>Because of those qualities, the London plane was chosen for mass plantings across the city, to provide much-needed greenery during its rapid expansion in the 19th century. But the London plane is not just hardy, it's also quite ornamental. The 30-odd specimens planted in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkeley_Square" target="_blank">Berkeley Square</a> in 1789 are among the oldest and grandest in London. </p>
Why 'leafy' means 'affluent'<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2OTMyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTEzNTMyOH0.UAZvek87OglEUsW0yeQJkrIcr68dVj6aJI9WHKdZEOY/img.png?width=980" id="fdd30" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2cab15f4ff2818e71df3740626d241ef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Trees are useful, valuable and pleasant assets for any city." />
Trees are useful, valuable and pleasant assets for any city.
Image: TreeTalk<p>Trees are an important asset to any city, and not just for their grandeur. They provide shade and prevent flooding, store carbon, and help cool nearby buildings. A recent <a href="https://www.treeconomics.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/London-i-Tree-Report.pdf" target="_blank">iTree study</a> figures that London's trees suck out 2,261 tons of pollution from the air each year and that their total environmental benefit amounts to about £132.7 ($164.6) million per year. </p><p>But grandeur also counts for something. Literally, in fact: It's been shown that tree-lined streets boost house prices by as much as 15 percent. No wonder 'leafy' is code for 'affluent'. </p><p>Despite its iconic status, the London plane is not the city's most prevalent species. In Inner London, it's birch (12 percent), followed by lime (6 percent) and apple (6 percent) trees. Sycamore (8 percent), English oak (8 percent) and hawthorn (7 percent) are the most common in Outer London.</p><p>The iTree study recorded 126 species, not counting the 2,000 species and varieties found at Kew Gardens. <br></p>
Thomas Hardy's handiwork<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI2OTMyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDY0ODU2Nn0.Oh-_EYqokQSEWKUmINB5v2hKL_k04c5IDrdR1vVVJZk/img.jpg?width=980" id="0dfad" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ab59ff90d0b392d7033522b74b33c43a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe Hardy Tree: 'designed' by Thomas Hardy, before he turned his hand at writing." />
The Hardy Tree: 'designed' by Thomas Hardy, before he turned his hand at writing.
Image: cisko66, CC BY 3.0<p>For its part, TreeTalk describes more than 600 species, but it is far from complete. It provides information on just 700,000 specimens – not even 10 percent of Greater London's overall total. That's because some of London's 33 boroughs have not yet or not completely provided data on the trees in their area. </p><p>For another take on London's arboreal heritage, check out the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Trees_of_London" target="_blank">Great Trees of London</a>, a collection of 54 of the city's most remarkable trees, as chosen by the Londoners themselves. </p><p>This list was born in the aftermath of the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjNE5hTXL3k" target="_blank">Great Storm of 1987</a>, which felled around 15 million trees across the country. The Countryside Commission selected 41 much-loved survivors suggested by the public, a list that was later expanded to 61 – sadly, six trees have since been lost. </p><p>They include such venerable ancients as the Royal Oak of Richmond Park, which is around 750 years old; the Hardy Tree at St Pancras Old Church, surrounded by a macabre arrangement of decommissioned gravestones; one of the London planes in Berkeley Square; and the Totteridge Yew, which may be more than 2,000 years old – older than London itself. <br></p><p><br></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1028</strong></p><p><em>Check out TreeTalk here.</em></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
The 385-million-year-old fossils show that trees evolved modern features millions of years earlier than previously estimated.
- The world's oldest forest fossils were located in an abandoned quarry near Cairo, New York.
- Research of site specimens suggests that the forebearers to modern plants evolved much earlier than expected.
- The findings help scientists better understand how trees advanced life's evolutionary trajectory to land during a critical period.
And into the forest science goes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjIxMDkxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjY5NjM5MX0.rHTatOWXvjOVElbPRGy3b9AXZ3YmIowuIUppuJx8DHU/img.jpg?width=980" id="cd33f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e89128bb031a7ecbcaf2e50dd3b67e7c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Researchers explore an Archaeopteris root system at the Cairo fossil forest site.
A glimpse of the oldest forests takes root<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjIxMDkxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzEzMDQ0MH0.olZsDm2PQbijpdOEVV-bKt_Sg-6lbKUDjKngPl7nzBk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="49541" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3f5542f5a40dd9eb79e17db63799c7a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The fossilized remains of the world's oldest fossil forest in the abandoned sandstone quarry.
Climate change, then and now<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="lJ3J92zI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9809192c9fe34e70b60b5d060c88c291"> <div id="botr_lJ3J92zI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/lJ3J92zI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/lJ3J92zI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/lJ3J92zI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>When and how trees began evolving modern root and vascular systems, as well as their upright habit, remain a mystery. But <em>Archaeopteris</em>'s elongated rooting systems appear identical to trees that would become numerous in the Carboniferous period's vast swamp forests.</p><p>As trees evolved these root systems, they began pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into carbonate ions in groundwater. These ions then flowed into the oceans where they were locked away in limestone, preventing them from re-entering the atmosphere. This development added a new wrinkle to Earth's substance turnovers.</p><p>Originally, carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere constituted more than 95 percent. Soon after the introduction of vascular plants and forests, these levels began dropping to modern levels. <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/prehistoric-world/carboniferous/" target="_blank">By the Carboniferous,</a> oxygen levels reached an all-time high of 35 percent. Today, they remain at a respectable, and livable, 21 percent. Thanks to vascular plants.</p><p>Vascular plants have <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4757688/" target="_blank">modified other geological cycles</a> on a planet-wide scale, too. These include deposition and erosion, the physical characteristics of soil, and the cycle of freshwater and various elements.</p><p>As Stein noted in the same statement:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">The effects were of first order magnitude, in terms of changes in ecosystems, what happens on the Earth's surface and oceans, in global atmosphere, CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere, and global climate. So many dramatic changes occurred at that time as a result of those original forests that basically, the world has never been the same since.</p><p>Today, Devonian plants and their Carboniferous progeny are again altering the Earth's climate, but in a way that is making the world less hospitable to life.</p><p>After being buried for millions of years, <a href="https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/carboniferous/carboniferous.php" target="_blank">the remains of these giant plants</a> transformed under the heat and pressure to create the large reserves of coal that drove the Industrial Revolution. In fact, the name "<a href="https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=carboniferous&source=ds_search" target="_blank">Carboniferous</a>" references to the rich coal deposits found in this geologic layer and literally means "coal-bearing."</p><p>As we continue to burn these ancient fossil fuels, we release the carbon dioxide they trapped back into the atmosphere, where they heat up our planet by way of an enhanced "<a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/greenhouse-effect" target="_blank">greenhouse effect</a>." Ironically, it seems powering our planet with these plants' remains is undoing the hard work the world's first forests endeavored.</p>
Thinning forests in the Western United States can save billions of gallons of water per year and improve conservation efforts.
- Recent research indicates that dense forests in the Sierra Nevada drain billions of gallons of water from the watershed each year.
- Unusually dense tree stands degrade the vitality of the land, plants, animals, and even the trees.
- Experts recommend managing forest restoration through controlled fires and the thinning of small, fire-prone trees.
Too many trees, too little water<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE2Nzk3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDc4MjMxOH0.E5TMeKYSiK4oOzeVy82omgybtK6npPZ8nTG2LdF15Ck/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C163%2C0%2C163&height=700" id="849fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="75b4e99821825a75a7fe84f4d631e9ee" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Restored Sierra Nevada forest stands in the foreground with unthinned forest in the background.
The costs of being (too) green<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE2Nzk2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTE0NjYxMn0.s7FUqCn3nkV1XWtp6h5jyrvd3pJOO1evELZpGInKYnU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=892%2C934%2C0%2C-5&height=700" id="efb2b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d8f6da6276fdf582965e7794ad9b84ae" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Rim Fire of the Stanislaus National Forest, Sierra Nevada, Cali. Suppression efforts cost more than $127 million.
Acts of ecological juggling<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="BpxINBpI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="25806f0a5c92ab2f0dff03ef84ce6a8e"> <div id="botr_BpxINBpI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BpxINBpI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/BpxINBpI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BpxINBpI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>For those of us raised on John Denver and Smokey the Bear, the idea of logging or letting forests burn runs counter-intuitive toward the belief that abundant green equals a healthy ecosystem. It brings to mind worries that big companies may clear cut national forests — placed in public trust for future generations — and that the emissions will exacerbate our already fraught battle with climate change.</p><p>These are legitimate concerns.</p><p>The U.S. Congress, particularly its Republican representatives, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/opinion/more-logging-wont-stop-wildfires.html" target="_blank">has a history</a> of using devastating wildfires to gin up support for legislation that would limit oversight of the logging industry, open federal lands to private companies, and curb environmental reviews of certain practices, including clear-cutting.</p><p>It's been shown that traditional logging practices increase an area's burn capacity. The large trees targeted by loggers are mature and thick-barked, which are more resistant to fire. Meanwhile, the small trees and debris left behind are easily combustible.</p><p>However, when performed in good faith and with oversight, targeted clearing efforts can be part of healthy forest management. Controlled fires can sterilize old forests from native fungi that can breed insatiably on old rot. They give new life to tree species such as <a href="https://www.nps.gov/articles/wildland-fire-in-douglas-fir.htm" target="_blank">the Douglas-fir</a>, an evergreen conifer that regenerates following a fire but not well in the shade of an established canopy. And the emissions from controlled, centralized thinning have been <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191104155701.htm" target="_blank">overrated in the cultural imagination</a>.</p><p>Nor should we confuse the type of burning prescribed by these experts with <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/three-million-acres-brazil-rainforest-lost/" target="_blank">the inferno-fueled deforestation</a> currently occurring in the Amazon rainforest. The number of active fires in the Amazon is <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191115190340.htm" target="_blank">above the historic average</a> with <a href="https://phys.org/news/2019-12-deforestation-brazil-amazon.html" target="_blank">deforestation more than double last year</a>. These burns are not inspired by conservation but <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/amazon-burning?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3" target="_blank">industrialization and weakened environmental protections</a>.</p><p>We must accept that healthy forest management is a juggling act that requires us to consider, calculate, and react to many different facets. These include reforestation, species selection, fertilization practices, irrigation and drainage practices, and many others. Additionally, forest management is not uniform. Practices that groom a healthy temperate forest, like those found in the Sierra Nevada, don't translate to tropical forests.</p><p>But if the question is, is it possible to have too many trees? The answer yes, sometimes, in some places.<br></p>
Ecosia says the funds generated from users' searches help to plant one tree every second.
- Ecosia is a search engine that donates 80 percent of its profits to tree-planting projects in multiple countries.
- The search engine makes money by selling advertising space, but doesn't sell or track user data.
- Planting trees is likely one of the cheapest and most effective ways to combat climate change.
Image source: NASA satellite image showing fires between Paraguay and Brazil<p>Like Google, Ecosia makes money selling advertising space on its web platform and mobile app. But unlike Google, this search engine doesn't sell or track user data, and it donates 80 percent of its profits (or 47.1 percent of its total income) to tree-planting reforestation projects in countries such as Tanzania, Peru, Senegal, Kenya, and Brazil, to name a few. Ecosia, which is powered by Microsoft's Bing, says it has planted more than 65 million trees to date since 2009.</p><p>At its current rate, Ecosia is planting a new tree every second across 21 international reforestation projects, according to its website. "Fifty million trees means 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 removed from the atmosphere," Ecosia wrote in a blog <a href="https://blog.ecosia.org/ecosia-has-planted-50-million-trees/" target="_blank">post</a>. "It means 60,000 hectares restored. And over 500 native tree species planted."</p>
Why plant trees?<p>A study published in July found that planting trees is, "by far — by thousands of times — the cheapest climate change solution" and the most effective, study co-author Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, told <a href="https://www.apnews.com/8ac33686b64a4fbc991997a72683b1c5" target="_blank"><em>The Associated Press</em></a>. Why? Trees, especially young trees, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — and a lot of it. Over a 40-year period, one tree can absorb as much as 1 ton of carbon dioxide. What's more, trees help to restore biodiversity to deforested areas.</p><p>In contrast, destroying trees — as millions have been by the Amazon fires — can negatively transform regional habitats, as <em><a href="https://www.vox.com/2019/8/27/20833275/amazon-rainforest-fire-wildfire-dieback" target="_blank">Vox's</a></em> Umair Irfan wrote in a recent story:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The towering mahogany, kapok, and Brazil nut trees of the Amazon play important parts in the orchestra of the region's water system.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">The trees take in rainwater through their roots, move it up into the canopy, and release it into the air, a process called <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/evapotranspiration-and-water-cycle?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects" target="_blank">evapotranspiration</a>. The trees also release <a href="https://earthdata.nasa.gov/learn/sensing-our-planet/volatile-trees" target="_blank">volatile organic compounds</a> that react to form tiny particles. These particles serve as nucleation points to form clouds and eventually lead to more rainfall.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Multiply this pattern by the hundreds of billions of trees in the rainforest and you get a powerful mechanism for recycling water and generating rainfall that keeps even the thirstiest of trees quaffed in hot tropical weather."</p><p>Fortunately, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/27/americas/brazil-rejects-g7-aid-amazon-intl/index.html" target="_blank">satellite data</a> showed that fire activity in most of the Brazilian Amazon had returned to normal or below-average levels on Tuesday. </p>
Is Ecosia legit?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8aeb475decca63861eac24c998865225"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/z1AVgbI_1r0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Satellite movie shows clouds of carbon monoxide drifting over South America.
- The Amazon fires were captured by the AIRS camera on the Aqua satellite.
- A movie clip released by NASA shows a huge cloud of CO drifting across the continent.
- Fortunately, carbon monoxide at this altitude has little effect on air quality.
Infrared evidence<video controls id="48599" width="100%" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b34d42b34326a4271c6879f5b271545d" expand="1" feedbacks="true" mime_type="video/quicktime" shortcode_id="1566894233602" url="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F13864-PIA23356.mov" videoControls="true"> <source src="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F13864-PIA23356.mov" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag. </video><p>You don't need eyes to see the massive fires raging in the Amazon. An infrared camera fitted on a satellite will do. <br></p><p>This movie, based on data collected from 8th to 22nd of August by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA's Aqua satellite, shows carbon monoxide (CO) levels at 18,000 feet (5.5 km) above South America. </p><p>The colours denote the density of carbon monoxide, from green (approximately 100 parts per billion by volume) over yellow (app. 120 ppbv) to dark red (app. 160 ppbv). Local values can be much higher. Each separate shot is the average of three days' worth of measurements, a technique used to eliminate data gaps. </p><p>As the clip shows, the CO plume rises in the northwest part of the Amazon, a massive region covering Brazil's western half. First it drifts further northwest, towards the Pacific Ocean; then, in a more concentrated plume, towards Brazil's southeast. </p><p>CO (1) can persist up to a month in the atmosphere and can travel large distances. At the altitude shown in this clip, it has little effect on the air we breathe. However, strong winds can carry it down to inhabited parts, where it can impact air quality. <br></p>
Fishbone pattern<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTA1OTg4Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0OTUyNDIxOX0.4esAeMcCHvZr3NzsSlaZFEVlx1zz24hmuzVwHKmsULA/img.jpg?width=980" id="4006b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="39e4d3a58b57aebcc7f08fbbacdb871b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Fishbone Deforestation in Rond\u00f4nia state" />
Deforestation in the Amazon forest, just east of Porto Velho, following the typical 'fishbone' pattern.
Image: Planet Labs, Inc. / CC BY-SA 4.0<p>The rainforests of the Amazon are often called the 'lungs of the planet', because they absorb large amounts of CO2 and produce roughly one-fifth of the planet's oxygen. In other words: one in every five of the breaths you take you owe to the Amazon.</p><p>But the Amazon's respiratory function is impaired by deforestation, a process which continues on a massive scale, both in Brazil and worldwide. In 2018, the planet lost 30 million acres of tree cover (roughly the size of Pennsylvania). This included almost 9 million acres of rain forest (slightly more than the size of Maryland). </p><p>Thanks to efforts by Brazil's previous administration, deforestation in the Amazon had slowed down to its slowest paces since records began; but a recession in 2014 again placed economic needs above ecological concerns. The pace of deforestation increased again and it has only accelerated since the election last year of Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro.</p>
850,000 acres lost<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTA1OTg4OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDA4ODIxOH0.zxms4jJgGQ_zMk4poG-cDxHJqeVkAs-fBIdO3CE-OEQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="b7b75" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f629697cc45d2c07a5ecdc909d04b807" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Terra Ind\u00edgena Porquinhos, Maranh\u00e3o" />
Amazon forest fires raging in Brazil's Maranhão state.
Image: Ibama / CC BY 2.0<p>Mr Bolsonaro's campaign pledge to open larger swathes of the Amazon for exploitation has emboldened local ranchers and farmers. From January to August this year, Brazil's National Institute of Space Research identified more than 40,000 separate forest fires in the country – 35% more than the average for the first eight months of each year since 2010. </p><p>Few of these fires occur naturally: most are set in order to increase the land available for crops and pasture. As a result, the Amazon lost more than 850,000 acres of forest cover in the first half of this year alone. That's 39% more than in the same period last year and represents an area the size of Rhode Island.</p>