Mapping tree density at a global scale

Nature. 2015 Sep 10;525(7568):201-5. doi: 10.1038/nature14967. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


The global extent and distribution of forest trees is central to our understanding of the terrestrial biosphere. We provide the first spatially continuous map of forest tree density at a global scale. This map reveals that the global number of trees is approximately 3.04 trillion, an order of magnitude higher than the previous estimate. Of these trees, approximately 1.39 trillion exist in tropical and subtropical forests, with 0.74 trillion in boreal regions and 0.61 trillion in temperate regions. Biome-level trends in tree density demonstrate the importance of climate and topography in controlling local tree densities at finer scales, as well as the overwhelming effect of humans across most of the world. Based on our projected tree densities, we estimate that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ecology / statistics & numerical data
  • Ecosystem
  • Forestry / statistics & numerical data
  • Forests*
  • Geographic Mapping*
  • Population Density
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Trees / growth & development*