Forests of the Planet
When a piece of land or hills is covered by trees at least five metres (16 feet) high, and covers an area of at least 0.5 hectares (1.2 acres) at a stretch, it is considered by definition, a forest.
30 per cent of the land area around the globe is covered with forests.
Total land area of the earth is 510 million Km2. So nearly 160 million Km2 of it is forests.
That is a lot, more than enough to support all life on the planet because forests not just soak Co2 from the atmosphere and give back O2 but directly support nearly 1.6 billion people and invaluable animal life that thrives in forests of the planet.
Forests cover 31 percent of the global land area. Approximately half the forest area is relatively intact, and more than one-third is primary forest. That is naturally regenerated forests of native species – where there is no human activity and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.
Temperate forests are found across eastern North America and Eurasia. The temperatures of temperate forests vary throughout the year because of the four distinct seasons at these latitudes.
These forests developed over millions of years because the rainfall was abundant which created fertile soil.
Very diverse tree species are found in temperate, warm and Mediterranean climate zones.
Tropical forests are the world’s most valuable natural resource. They are populating earth around the equator in Africa, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central America.
They support the world’s most diverse animal, bird and insect life which is critical to biodiversity and ecological balance on the planet.
Deforestation of Tropical forests at fast pace has alarmed the world community for several years.
Boreal forest is the world’s largest land biome.They spread across the globe above 70 parallel in Siberia, Scandinavia, Canada and North America.
These forests are covered in snow in winter and have plentiful moisture but recently they have started to experience extreme heat and forest fires.
Boreal forests play a very significant role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Forest ecosystems are so valuable to the planet that it is right that nature lovers, scientists and policymakers are worried about loss of forests. Forests are being killed by human action, droughts and now by wildfires.
Just when deforestation for economic reasons was beginning to be dealt with through a global effort and started to bring some results a bigger, greater and more existential threat has arisen to forests.
It is the destruction caused by uncontrolled large wildfires that now threatens the earth’s forests
Climate change, disease or insects and large uncontrolled forest fires are interconnected and are causing mass death of trees.
During 2001–2018, historical estimates of annual global wildfire burned areas ranged from 394 to 519 million hectares, with an average of 463 million hectares. The Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission recorded 79,000 wildfires worldwide in August 2019 compared to just over 16,000 wildfires detected during the same period in 2018. An apparent increase in catastrophic wildfires has been found globally in recent years. For example, California suffered wildfire in 2018 on the heels of a devastating 2017 wildfire.
Record wildfire destruction in the US
2020, western wildfires were considered the most destructive wildfires in the history of the USA. It is additionally estimated that there were thousands of smoke-related deaths, and over 10,000 structures have been damaged or destroyed. In 2019, wildfires burned 1.01 million hectares in Alaska, and massive wildfires occurred in Siberia, which were both driving extremely high temperatures
Record Wildfire Destruction In Europe
1.6 million acres of European forests have already been destroyed by fires this year, according to EU data. This year would be the worst since records began in 2006.
Forest fires release many greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, methane and nitrogen oxides, which are toxic to humans, as well as aerosols, soot (extra-fine particles) and tars. French fires released nearly 1 million tonnes of carbon, equivalent to the annual emissions of 790,000 cars, into the atmosphere from June to August 11 alone. At this rate, the mark for the whole of 2003 (nearly 1.3 million tonnes) could be broken, the report said, making 2022 the worst year since records began.
However, we need not be despondent because Earth Observation Satellites and Artificial Intelligence can give us the knowledge and insight required to prevent mega fires and regenerate forests.