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  • 467 million hectares of 'lost' dryland forests found

    2017 - 06.21

    A new study has uncovered an incredible 467 million hectares of previously unreported forests.

    The dryland forests, equal to about 60 per cent of Australia's size, were found in all continents, but most were discovered in sub-Saharan Africa, around the Mediterranean, central India, coastal Australia, western South America, northeastern Brazil, northern Colombia and Venezuela, as well as northern parts of the Boreal forests in Canada and Russia.

    In Africa, the area known dryland forest area has doubled with the study.

    In total, these discoveries found 45 per cent more forest area than previous surveys.

    The incredible disparity in results can partly be explained by the difficulty in measuring drylands. The fact that they contain very few trees makes them challenging to quantify on a global scale.

    The findings were discovered when the researchers made use of high-resolution satellite imagery from Google Earth Engine and then used a simple visual interpretation of tree number and density.

    Andrew Lowe of the University of Adelaide, who headed the research, said "In the modern digital age we think we know everything about the Earth, but a lot of that knowledge comes from satellite imagery, like Google Earth, but when you see that type of satellite data, you have to make estimations on what type of vegetation occurs on the ground."

    Drylands have a history of being underappreciated by the timber industry, but this study has proven that they have a bigger capacity to support trees and forests that initially realised.

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