Earth Is Getting Greener — But How?

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World Is Getting Greener Led By the Efforts from India and China — NASA

India and China are helping the world towards getting greener. Continuous tree-planting programs and intensive agriculture in both countries, has mapped a way towards a greener economy, according to a report from NASA. The world is getting literally greener than two decades ago, the study published in the latest edition in Nature Sustainability on Monday said.

It showed that at least 25% of the global foliage expansion since the early 2000s came from India, following China. In 2017 alone, India broke its own world record — the most trees planted after volunteers gathered to plant 66 million saplings in a span of 12 hours.

Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and a co-author of the study said, “When the greening of the Earth was first pictured, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

But with data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, scientists realized that humans are significantly contributing, especially in India and China. “Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data,” said Nemani.

“Both the Asian countries, China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area,” said lead author Chen Chi of Boston University.

The new insight was made possible by a nearly 20-year-long data record from a NASA instrument orbiting the Earth on two satellites, which is known as Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. The high-resolution MODIS data provides exact information, helping researchers work out details of what’s happening with Earth, down to the level of 500 meters on the ground.

The land area used to grow crops in the two nations have significantly increased including their annual total green leaf area and their food production. However the greening trend may change in the future depends on numerous factors, such as the global scale and the human level in these countries.

Nemani explained that increased food production in India is facilitated by groundwater irrigation so in case groundwater is depleted or exhausted, the trend may change. “But, a human is an influencer in the key driver of the Greener Earth, we need to factor this into our climate models,” Nemani said.

“This will help scientists make better predictions about the behavior of different Earth systems and any change in trends that would result in the greener production. Also, it will help countries make better decisions about how and when to take action.”

The researchers, also noted that the gain in greenness does not offset the damage that has happened with the loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions, such as Brazil and Indonesia.

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