A study published in Science magazine co-authored by Dr. George Hurtt and Dr. Louise Chini on how forests and trees are changing was recently covered in The Economist in an article entitled "The world is losing its big old trees." The article emphasizes the study's finding that canopies are becoming shorter and younger, and are thus able to store less carbon. This is most extensively seen in Europe: “Europe is declining fastest because it already started out with a very low average age in 1900, due to a long history of forest disturbance,” Dr. Chini told The Economist. Additionally, Europe is planting new trees and "bucking the deforestation trend" which lowers the average age of forests. As noted in the article, South America sees the smallest reduction where "deforestation has served to make room for cropland or pasture. That means the area drops out of the calculation for the average age of its forests." The full Economist article can be found on the publication's website.

Dr. Hurtt and Dr. Chini contributed the global land-use data used in the analyses of the Science study. Led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), researchers used satellite imagery along with computer modeling and a detailed literature review to conclude that the globally averaged tree size has declined over the last century and the trend is likely to continue due to environmental changes. The full Science study can be found in the May 29th issue of the magazine.


Forest trends