Reforestation could save the climate

A new study from Switzerland shows reforestation would be the most effective method to combat climate change.

Researchers from the Crowther Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) conduct research on nature-based solutions to climate change. In their latest study, they show for the first time where in the world new trees could grow and how much carbon they would store.

The researchers calculated that under current climate conditions, Earth’s land could support 4.4 billion hectares of forest, which is 1.6 billion more than the currently existing 2.8 billion hectares. However, of those 1.6 billion hectares, 0.7 billion are being used by humans for cities or agricultural areas. This leaves 0.9 billion hectares – roughly an area the size of the US – available for tree restoration.

According to their calculations, these new forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon, or about two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution. The countries most suitable to forest restoration are Russia, the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China.

“We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be,” said Professor Tom Crowther, co-author of the study and founder of the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich.

“Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage.”

Image credit: Tim Gorman via Flickr

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