Turkey appears greener than a decade ago - global study

Turkey joins countries such as China and India, which are leading the increase in greening on land, in increased foliage compared to a decade ago, according to a study led by Ranga Myneni of Boston University published on Nasa’s Earth Observatory website.

The study conducted with NASA satellites has found that the world is literally a greener place than it was twenty years ago.

Turkey registered in the 12-16 percent annual average leaf area between 2000-2017, in the same category as India and China, the study found.

Global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests, the study found, with at least 25 percent of that gain coming from China.

One-third of Earth’s vegetated lands are greening, while 5 percent are growing browner.

Demonstrated with maps showing the increase or decrease in green vegetation—measured in average leaf area per year—in different regions of the world between 2000 and 2017, the study found that while China and India account for one-third of the greening, they only 9 percent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation,”

“That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,”  lead author Chi Chen of Boston University said.

The study is a result of two-decade-long data record from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.

“When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Now with the MODIS data, we see that humans are also contributing,” Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and a co-author of the study, said.

How the greening trend may change in the future depends on numerous factors, the article said, pointing to the fact increased food production in India is facilitated by groundwater irrigation.

‘’If the groundwater is depleted, this trend may change. The researchers also pointed out that the gain in greenness around the world does not necessarily offset the loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions such as Brazil and Indonesia. There are consequences for sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems beyond the simple greenness of the landscape,’’ it noted.

According to Nemani, there is a positive message in the new findings.

“In the 1970s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss was not good. In the 1990s, people realized it, and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data,” Nemani said.