Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that the earth is actually getting greener. We should rejoice as our feeble efforts at reforestation is actually working. Right? But hold your horses, as that may not be the case at all.
According to a recent study published, scientists discovered, despite ongoing deforestation, the world actually increased vegetation from 2003 to 2013. Two reasons were massive reforestation programs in China and the regrowth in parts of the former Soviet Union.
But also a major cause is global warming, which has melted polar ice caps to expose vegetation. And this type of greenery may actually bring more harm than good.
A scientific team at the University of New South Wales used a new technique for investigating satellite data of natural emission of radiation to gauge the volume of vegetation globally, in a study published in Nature Climate Change. They found an increase in greenery since 2003, reversing the negative trend of the former decade.
The scientists found increased forestation in China, where billions of trees have been planted since 1980, and Eastern Europe, where logging and industry have declined since the fall of USSR.
However, researchers were astonished, to discover an increase in vegetation in the savannas and shrub lands of Africa, South America and Australia, a 4 billion ton increase in vegetation since 2003.
But the news reception is mixed.
The study’s lead author, Yi Liu, told Reuters, “From this research, we can see these plants can help absorb some carbon dioxide, but there’s still a lot of carbon dioxide staying in the atmosphere. In fact, during that decade, a total of 60 billion tons of carbon was added to the atmosphere.
The increases in vegetation could be short lived. As some experts seriously doubt the longevity of reforestation programs in China. And Liu admitted that recent efforts in Africa, Australia and South America may be fleeting.
Louis Verchot, a researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research in Jakarta, Indonesia, told The Post, “We know that the ice is melting in the north and it’s being replaced by vegetation. As permafrost melts and ice cover decreases, it’s replaced by vegetation.”
Verchot says this type of vegetation in the north actually worsens climate change.
He explained, “It’s going to have a negative impact because vegetation in the north is dark and absorbs more heat. Forests have a dual role. Dark vegetation absorbs heat compared to ice, for example, which is bright and reflects a lot of light back into the atmosphere.”
This process is called the Albedo effect, and it bears bad news.
Increased vegetation in the savannas is not a big help to the planet. What is considered good news is a boom in the tropical forests, but according to Liu’s study, those were still shrinking, particularly in the Amazon, Verchot says.