16 December 2015

A research paper on global tree numbers, involving a Lancaster University researcher, was one of 2015s most widely discussed academic articles online 

The research paper, published in Nature, mapped global tree density and revealed there are about 3.04 trillion trees on the planet, a much larger number than previously thought.

The paper was the 11th most discussed academic article online between November 2014 and November 2015, according to Altmetric, which published an annual list of the top 100.   Altmetric tracks mentions in mainstream media, blogs, Wikipedia and social networks, as well as amongst a more academic audience in post-publication peer-review forums and research highlights. It weights the mentions by impact and only includes occasions when the paper is linked to directly.

The paper, Mapping Tree density at a global scale, was quoted in 86 news stories, 33 blog posts, 994 tweets, 27 facebook posts, 52 Google+ posts, 1 Reddit, 1 Wikipedia reference  and 1 video.

The international research team responsible included Dr Percival Cho, who carried out his research while a PhD student at Lancaster Environment Centre.

The paper drew upon 429,775 ground-sourced measurements of tree density from every continent on Earth except Antarctica to generate a new global map of forest trees. It reveals a more nuanced and accurate picture of forest ecosystems around the world and it seems there are far more individual trees in our forests than previously thought.

The researchers also estimated that the global number of trees had fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilisation with around 15 billion trees being cut down each year.

Writing in the report the researchers said: Forest ecosystems harbour a large proportion of global biodiversity, contribute extensively to biogeochemical cycles, and provide countless ecosystem services, including water quality control, timber stocks and carbon sequestration.