Satellite study finds global forest loss reversing

Analysis of 20 years of satellite data has revealed the total amount of vegetation globally has increased by almost the equivalent of 4 billion tonnes of carbon since 2003. This is despite ongoing large-scale deforestation in the tropics.

An Australian-led international team of scientists published the findings in Nature Climate Change, finding a range of causes for the increase.

“The increase in vegetation primarily came from a lucky combination of environmental and economic factors and massive tree-planting projects in China,” said Dr Yi Liu, a lead author and remote sensing scientist from the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales. 

China was the only country to intentionally increase its vegetation with tree planting projects. 

To achieve their results, the team pioneered an entirely new technique to map changes in vegetation biomass over time, using satellite measurements of natural radio waves emitted from the Earth’s surface.

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Photo: CSIRO