In 2005, trees outnumbered people 61 to 1. In 2015, it's 422 to 1. Here's what changed.

Trees are some of the most helpful organisms on earth.

One large tree can supply a day's worth of oxygen for four people. They also absorb carbon dioxide, provide homes for animals, and make the nitrogen cycle happen, not to mention the whole "food and goods for human consumption" thing. No doubt about it, trees are pretty good at what they do.


Trees also make for excellent organic chairs. Photo by iStock.

And a new study revealed there are even more trees on Earth than we thought. A whole lot more.

The researchers found that there are over 3 TRILLION trees on Earth. That works out to be around 422 trees per person. Congrats, you just got yourself a tiny forest.

This is a huge deal, considering the previous tree tally, conducted in 2005 by Evergreen State College in Washington, only used NASA satellite imagery and found just 400 billion trees, which averaged out to a scant 61 trees a person.

Just some of Earth's 3,000,000,000,000 trees. And yes, I had to think long and hard about just how many zeroes that number required. Photo by iStock.

To arrive at that number, an international team of scientists combined two common methods: satellites and manually counting tree trunks.

You read that right. One of the most accurate ways for scientists to count trees is to actually go trunk-by-trunk and count them.

In this 2011 photo, a team from the Regional Office for Woodlands and Forestry in Germany count and catalog a selected section of forest. Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images.

The team, led by Dr. Thomas Crowther, an ecologist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology who conducted the research while working at Yale University, first gathered the results of on the ground tree counts from every continent except Antarctica.

The various counts covered about 430,000 hectares (1,062 acres) worldwide, which may not sound like much, but when combined with satellite imagery, it gave the team a better estimate about the density of the forests and allowed them to make a more accurate count of the total number of trees on the planet.

Why is the tree count so important? It all comes back to conservation.

"It's not like we've discovered a load of new trees; it's not like we've discovered a load of new carbon," Crowther told BBC's "Science in Action."

"We're simply describing the state of the global forest system in numbers that people can understand and that scientists can use, and that environmental practitioners or policymakers can understand and use."

And hopefully, they will.

Trees on the island of Borneo are clear-cut to build a palm oil plantation. Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images.

Between poor forest management practices, deforestation, and land-use policies, humans have had a majorly negative impact on tree populations around the globe.

Crowther's team estimates the number of trees has decreased 46% since the dawn of human civilization.

While a more accurate count is great news, we're also not out of the woods yet.

As much as we all love trees, paper still makes up the largest percentage of municipal solid waste.

On average, the world uses an estimated 27,000 trees each day in toilet paper alone. And we're not much better when it comes to paper towels. They make up an estimated 20 to 40% of waste from dorms and office buildings.

Left: Trees are clear-cut to make way for a pulp and paper plantation in Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images. Right: Paper towels, anyone? Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr.

Knowing and understanding the tree count is the first step to saving these rapidly diminishing resources and developing sustainable solutions.

But there are still plenty of things you can do to help Earth's tree population grow and thrive.

And you don't have to replant billions of trees to do your part.

Start by choosing paper made from recycled material or from sustainable forests. Say no to paper and plastic at the store and bring a reusable bag. Even reducing your font one size before printing is a small change that can have a big impact.

#TreeFriendlyRelationshipGoals. Photo by iStock.

Making smart choices about the products we use and our personal habits may help spare our forests.

Because we may have 3 trillion trees on Earth, but we need every last one.

You can hear from Crowther himself, as he shares his method and findings in this short video from Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies:

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less
via DCist / Twitter

The 2020 general election will be unlike any in U.S. history due to a large number of people voting before election day, November 3.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many voting early, either in-person or by mail, so they can avoid large crowds of people. While others are mailing in their ballots early due to concerns over President Trump's attempts to stifle voter turnout by disrupting the United States Postal Service.

Four states officially started early in-person voting on Friday and if the number of people who've already cast a ballot in Virginia is any indication of a nationwide trend, voter turnout is going to be massive this year.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

With many schools going virtual, many daycare facilities being closed or limited, and millions of parents working from home during the pandemic, the balance working moms have always struggled to achieve has become even more challenging in 2020. Though there are more women in the workforce than ever, women still take on the lion's share of household and childcare duties. Moms also tend to bear the mental load of keeping track of all the little details that keep family life running smoothly, from noticing when kids are outgrowing their clothing to keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments to organizing kids' extracurricular activities.

It's a lot. And it's a lot more now that we're also dealing with the daily existential dread of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, and increasingly intense natural disasters.

That's why scientist Gretchen Goldman's refreshingly honest photo showing where and how she conducted a CNN interview is resonating with so many.

Keep Reading Show less
ZACHOR Foundation

"What's 'the Holocaust'?" my 11-year-old son asks me. I take a deep breath as I gauge how much to tell him. He's old enough to understand that prejudice can lead to hatred, but I can't help but feel he's too young to hear about the full spectrum of human horror that hatred can lead to.

I wrestle with that thought, considering the conversation I recently had with Ben Lesser, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who was just a little younger than my son when he witnessed his first Nazi atrocity.

It was September of 1939 and the Blitzkrieg occupation of Poland had just begun. Ben, his parents, and his siblings were awakened in their Krakow apartment by Nazi soldiers who pistol-whipped them out of bed and ransacked their home. As the men with the shiny black boots filled burlap sacks with the Jewish family's valuables, a scream came from the apartment across the hall. Ben and his sister ran toward the cry.

They found a Nazi swinging their neighbors' baby upside down by its legs, demanding that the baby's mother make it stop crying. As the parents screamed, "My baby! My baby!" the Nazi smirked—then swung the baby's head full force into the door frame, killing it instantly.

This story and others like it feel too terrible to tell my young son, too out of context from his life of relative safety and security. And yet Ben Lesser lived it at my son's age. And it was too terrible—for anyone, much less a 10-year-old. And it was also completely out of context from the life of relative safety and security Ben and his family had known before the Nazi tanks rolled in.

Keep Reading Show less