Astronomy and Space

There are More Trees on Earth Than Stars in the Milky Way

#trees #nature #stars #astronomy

When it comes to incredibly-large numbers, it’s hard to outdo the stars in the sky. Take anything on earth and compare its numbers to the stars in the Milky Way, and it stands to reason that the heavenly numbers outweigh anything we have here on Terra Firma, right? Don’t be so quick to jump to that conclusion. New studies show that trees more than outshine the stars, at least in the numerical category.

A team of researchers led by Thomas Crowder attempted to tackle the challenges of making an accurate census of the earth’s tree population. Earlier estimates had placed the number of the planet’s trees at 400 billion. Using this figure, governments have made policies regarding the regulation of CO2 emissions. While most scientists acknowledged the 400 billion number was probably off, no one had a better way to calculate the true number until Crowder and his team completed their studies.

The group’s findings, “Mapping Tree Density at a Global Scale,” was published in the September 15, 2015 issue Nature. What it revealed was staggering. The actual number of trees was closer to eight times that of the previously-accepted number. Rather than 400 billion, the researchers concluded there are as many as 3 trillion trees on earth. That comes out to 420 trees for every person now living.

The census places the most trees in Russia, with 642 billion. Canada, Brazil, and the United States are the next-highest on the list, with the tree population of the U.S. coming in at 228 billion.

Compare this to the stars in the sky — more specifically, the Milky Way. Getting an accurate count of our galaxy’s stellar inhabitants is complicated. Studies over the past forty years have placed the number of stars anywhere between 100 billion and 400 billion.

Whichever way you count it, in a race of numbers earth’s tree population leaves the Milky Way’s stars choking on their own stardust.

Read more fun facts about nature.

Read more fun facts about astronomy.

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