Desert Shows Surprisingly Large Count of Trees, Researchers Unveil

A group of researchers led by Martin Brandt who is from the University of Copenhagen and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, has recently published a study called “An unexpectedly large count of trees in the West African Sahara and Sahel.” The said study is published in the journal Nature just on October 14, 2020.

Non-forest trees have an important role in biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. However, since the interest of the public in relation to trees is devoted to forests, trees outside of forests are not well-documented.

Thus, using submetre-resolution satellite imagery and deep learning, the researchers have mapped the crown size of each tree more than 3 m2 in size over a land area that spans 1.3 million km2 in the West African Sahara, Sahel and sub-humid zone.

“We detected over 1.8 billion individual trees (13.4 trees per hectare), with a median crown size of 12 m2, along a rainfall gradient from 0 to 1,000 mm per year,” stated the researchers in their article. “Even the desert shows a surprisingly high tree density,” they added.

In line with this, Nature, the leading international weekly journal of science, said that trees have never been mapped at this level of detail across such a large area before.

The assessment made by the researchers suggests a way to monitor trees outside of forests globally. In addition, it also suggests a way to explore their role in mitigating degradation, climate change, and even poverty. 

Other researchers involved in this study are from the University of Copenhagen, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Université Paul Sabatier, University of Műnster, Műnster, University of Bremen, Ecole Normale Supérieure, and the Université Catholique de Louvain.

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Source: Nature, Nature| Journal, Science Alert

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