What would happen if all the world’s trees disappeared?
As the forests around the world continue to burn, we should ask ourselves: how much does the survival of trees affect us? There are not many ways to answer this. Without them, we would lose essential functions for the Earth.
Trees are not only responsible for carbon storage and soil conservation but also for water cycle regulation. In addition, they provide homes for countless species, including us.
Sadly, we continue to regard them as disposable material. Did you know that since the human race began practicing agriculture around 10,000 years ago, we have cleared almost half of the world’s estimated 5.8 trillion trees? Since the beginning of the industrial era, forests have declined by 32%, and it is estimated that around 15 billion trees are cut down each year.
There are also fires to consider. In the Amazon rainforest, fires have increased by around 85%. In 2019 alone, there have been more than 70,000 forest fires within that geographical area. As if this bleak situation was not sad enough, let’s dive into the scenario of a world without trees.
Habitat loss is already the primary driver of extinction worldwide, so the absence of all remaining forests would mean a mass extinction of all groups of organisms.
The planet’s climate would also be drastically affected. Trees are a fundamental part of the water cycle. They suck water from the soil and deposit it into the atmosphere by transforming it from liquid to vapour. Forests thereby contribute to the formation of clouds and precipitation.
Furthermore, they prevent flooding by trapping water instead of letting it run into lakes and rivers.
On a global scale, trees combat global warming by acting as carbon sinks, ultimately removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
However, humanity’s suffering would begin long before catastrophic global warming. Increased heat, disruption of the water cycle, and loss of shade would take a deadly toll on billions of people and livestock.
Agricultural systems would spiral out of control. Due to temperature and precipitation, crop sites would suddenly fail, soils would be depleted, requiring significant amounts of fertilizer for crops to survive. Further heating would eventually make most places uncultivable and uninhabitable.
Last but not least, having no forests would significantly impact our health. Trees clean the air by absorbing pollutants and trapping particulates in their leaves, branches, and trunks. It has been demonstrated that trees remove 17.4 million tons of pollution from the air each year in the US.