In response to the passing of the law protecting Yosemite Valley, naturalist John Muir once said, “Every pine tree will be waving his arms for joy.”

It’s fun to imagine how he’d respond to WWF’s announcement that natural forest regeneration has covered a region the size of France—59 million hectares—over the last 20 years.

The restored forest, which was monitored using satellite data, has the capacity to absorb 5.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide, more than the United States’ annual emissions, according to the numerous research and conservation organisations involved in the project.

“This map will be a valuable tool for conservationists, policymakers, and funders to better understand the multiple ways we can work to increase forest cover for the good of the planet,” said John Lotspeich, executive director of Trillion Trees. “The data show the enormous potential of natural habitats to recover when given the chance to do so.”

The forests along Mongolia’s northern border had 1.2 million hectares of regrowth, while Canada and the central African basin were both regrowth hotspots.

Furthermore, since the year 2000, the forestlands along Brazil’s Atlantic coast, which are second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity, have seen a region the size of the Netherlands return to trees.

All of the forests being monitored are natural, and the NGOs have included both areas that simply needed to be left alone to regenerate and stands of trees that required active assistance to grow back in their data. Commercial plantations were purposefully left out of the project.

The resulting satellite map, which was created in collaboration with WWF, Birdlife International, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, is defined as exploratory, and its creators are urging it to be checked and refined.

Trees are a great and cheap way to remove CO2 from the environment, which is one of the primary goals scientists have set for reducing climate change’s worst effects.

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