Nasa scientists recorded a 5 per cent increase in the planet’s green leaf area since the early 2000s – the equivalent of an extra Amazon rainforest – and were surprised by the cause.
This surprising new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the improvement in greening on land. The effect stems mainly from ambitious tree planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries. In 2017 alone, India broke its own world record for the most trees planted after volunteers gathered to plant 66 million saplings in just 12 hours.
The 20-year-long data record was produced by an instrument on board two satellites orbiting the planet and capturing up to four shots of every place on Earth every day for the last 20 years.
“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation — a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,” Chi Chen, the study’s lead author and a graduate researcher at Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment, said in a statement.
The greening in China is from forests (42 per cent) and croplands (32 per cent), but in India, it is mostly from croplands (82 per cent) with minor contribution from forests (4.4 per cent).
Food production in China and India has increased by over 35 per cent since 2000 mostly owing to an increase in the harvested area through multiple cropping facilitated by fertiliser use and surface and/or groundwater irrigation.