As the deforestation crisis continues, world tracker the World Counts reveals that in 78 years, rainforests will cease to exist if we continue the harmful practices we have been relying on for decades. It goes without saying that in the last decade, the Amazon rainforest has had more than its fair share of crises. Plus, the ongoing events of the COVID-19 pandemic have even wrought havoc on the planet’s lungs.
Through increased illegal clearance operations that exploited the distracting circumstances of the global pandemic, deforestation in the Amazon increased by 55 per cent in the first four months of 2020.
Recent reports suggest that only three per cent of the world’s ecosystems remain healthy and intact, therefore it is crucial we all band together to tackle this crisis. With 22nd June marking World Rainforest Day, we need to question how we might save the Amazon? But just how bad is the rainforest crisis? Here, we explain the scale of the problem by posing this question: could the UK plant enough trees to help tackle the deforestation crisis in the Amazon?
One tree for another
Let’s look at the numbers.
Between August 2019 and July 2020, 11,088km2 (2,739,904.5 acres) of rainforest was destroyed. In comparison to the previous year, this figure has increased by 9.5 per cent.
There are around 200 trees per acre in the Amazon. Taking this as a base, to replace what was lost in 2020 alone, 547,980,900 trees would need to be planted to cover those 2,739,904.5 acres lost.
So, in theory, would the UK be up to the challenge?
Let’s say, hypothetically, we could get all 68,000,000 UK residents on board with the idea. We would all have to commit to planting eight trees each – which may not sound too much. Even if only half the UK got involved, 16 trees is manageable – if we have the space.
So, do we have the space?
In short, yes, we do. The UK covers 242,495km2, which is enough space to plant 2,739,904.5 acres of additional trees (which would cover 11,088km2, or 4.57 per cent of the UK). We wouldn’t have to knock down any of our homes or buildings either, with Northern Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland each comprising of less than 10% “built-up” areas.
As for farmland however, it might be a struggle to fit all the planting into England alone – and that’s before the following year when we would need to plant another 547,980,900 trees.
That leads us to some realistic problems:
Out with the old, in with the new
In an interview with the BBC, Dr Erika Berenguer of Oxford University explained: “The older and larger the tree, the more carbon it stores.” The doctor continues to explain that a family car that emits three to four tonnes of carbon over the course of four years that can be stored in a tree with a three-metre circumference.
As for young trees, they absorb around 5.9kg of C02 per year. So, the problem isn’t just losing one tree and replacing it with another, rather, it is the fact that a newly planted tree cannot store the same amount of carbon as the larger, older tree it is replacing.
Dr Berenguer explains: “Many people believe that to make up for what we’ve lost in the Amazon, we just need to plant trees elsewhere. But that is simply not the case”.
How we can make a change
Prevention is better than a cure. To regrow the trees that are lost in the Amazon would take years and years, therefore the best solution is to prevent any more of the rainforest from being lost to deforestation.
As outlined by World Rainforest Day, there are seven key actions we can take to help save the future of the world’s rainforests.
However, let’s not dismiss the idea of tree planting in the UK it can make an enormous difference to climate change, especially as the tree matures and soaks up more carbon. So as the warmer months commence, if you’re looking for a way to spend time in the garden, then planting a tree and providing it with the care it needs is something the environment will appreciate, and to allow of all of us to be mindful of deforestation and the ways we can play our part in World Rainforest Day 2021.
Compost Direct is an online retailer of sustainably sourced compost, mulches, plant feeds and more. The UK based company has partnered with 1% for the Planet, a global organisation that is currently working to support Rewilding Britain in its vision to restore and connect up areas of rich natural habitat across at least 30% of Britain’s land and seas by 2030.