Where the Trees Are

Trees.  They’re great, until they’re in the way.  Forests once covered half the land on Earth and now claim less than a third of it.  Why might we care?  Here’s NASA with a few reasons:

Trees cool and moisten our air and fill it with oxygen. They calm the winds and shade the land from sunlight. They shelter countless species, anchor the soil, and slow the movement of water. They provide food, fuel, medicines, and building materials for human activity.

Modern life is great at detaching us from our natural surroundings.  While the paragraph above contains words like ‘oxygen’, ‘soil’, ‘water’, ‘food’, ‘fuel’ and ‘medicine’, which on The $100,000 Pyramid could elicit “Things Critical To Human Life”, it still doesn’t necessarily make the connection.  We know we need trees.  That’s why we’re using them.

Thanks to a six year collaboration between the Woods Hole Research Center, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, we now have very detailed knowledge of the state of biomass in the United States.  4 pixels per acre to be exact…

(click for much larger image)

It’s good someone is paying attention.  Don’t think for a second we couldn’t chop every one of them down.  (Think buffalo.)  Now with the tree inventory, we’ve hopefully got what we need to carve out a future without it falling down all around us.

[Maps from NASA 1, 2, 3 via Geek.com]