The earth is becoming greener largely through the activities of China and India, the world’s most populous countries more usually known for their serious pollution levels, Trend reports referring to South China Morning Post.
Nasa scientists recorded a 5 per cent increase in the planet’s green leaf area since the early 2000s – the equivalent of an extra Amazon rainforest – and were surprised by the cause.
The Nasa study, which was published on February 11 in the journal Nature Sustainability, found some 2 million square miles (about 518 million hectares) of vegetation had been added to the surface of the earth, a quarter of which was contributed by China.
The study found that most of China’s contribution was achieved through its initiatives to conserve and expand forests, while more than 80 per cent of India’s increase was due to intensive agriculture.
“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 per cent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation – a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from over-exploitation,” Chi Chen, the study’s lead author, said.
The study analysed data collected from two Nasa satellites between 2000 and 2017.
“When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilisation as a result of the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” Rama Nemani, a co-author of the study, said.
“Now, with the medium-resolution imaging spectrometer (MODIS) data, we see that humans are also contributing.”
The news was widely applauded by the Chinese online community, not often treated to positive environment stories.
“Finally some good news. I think this is in line with the fast urbanisation we’ve witnessed. As so many people have left villages to work in cities, large areas of mountains and fields were left to grow trees. I can tell this from the greener hills in my hometown,” one commenter wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media service.
China has spent decades expanding its forest area to battle climate change, desertification and deforestation.
The Chinese State Forestry Administration vowed last year that 23 per cent of the mainland’s total land mass would be covered with forests by next year.
Several afforestation projects are underway as a result in the northern areas of Hebei, Inner Mongolia and Qinghai, covering 6.6 million hectares, almost the size of Ireland.