Thanks to decades of forest growth exceeding harvesting rates the US officially has more trees now compared to 100 years ago.
The United States has the fourth largest forest estate of any nation, with 8% of the world’s forests or about 300 million hectares of forest, exceeded only by the Russian Federation, Brazil and Canada. Thanks to sustainable harvesting practices, creation of National Parks and less land being turned to agriculture the rate of forest growth has steadily climbed in the US. In fact, many forestry companies now plant trees than they harvest.
The greatest forest growth have occurred along the East Coast which historically has been the area most heavily logged by European settlers beginning in the 1600s.
Forests capture carbon and as the US does not currently have a carbon trading scheme these forests play an important role in absorbing carbon emissions.
While this is good news researchers are concerned that a lack of variety in the ages of forests. New research has shown that older, more established trees absorb more carbon dioxide than previously believed. Older forests also harbor more diversity. Although forest growth is on the rise it will take decades, if not hundreds of years for these new forests to host the various organisms to be a healthy ecosystem.
Photo by Dejan H (c), modified by Green Optimistic