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Newly Discovered Forests Could Cover 60% of Australia

Researchers say world's dryland forests had been seriously under-reported
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2017 1:27 PM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists have discovered 467 million hectares of unreported forest—about three-fifths the size of Australia—scattered around the globe, the Conversation reports. The discovery increases the known global forest cover by about 9%. The study—published Friday in Science—focused on "drylands," areas that lose more water through evaporation and plant transpiration than they receive in precipitation. Trees in drylands aren't very dense, which can make it difficult to measure possible forest cover. According to a press release, old estimates of dryland forests were off due to a number of factors, including low image resolution from satellites and the methods of mapping used.

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The new study used high-resolution images of more than 210,000 dryland sites from Google Earth Engine and combined them with observations on the ground. Researchers found between 40% to 47% more forest cover in the world's drylands than previously reported. New forests were found on all continents—besides Antarctica. ABC reports the research, led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, gives a new tool in the fight against climate change; it boosts estimates of the amount of carbon stored in plants globally. (New database gives tree scientists an important first.)

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