I recently was watching a video by PBS Studios about how many trees there are in the world. According to recent estimates there are roughly over 3 trillion trees on our planet! That’s enough for 420 trees per person.
To even boggle your mind more, there are more trees in the world than there are stars in the Milky Way, our home galaxy. It is estimated there are anywhere between 100 billion and 400 billion balls of flame compared to our mighty 3 trillion leafy friends!
Makes you feel a bit small doesn't it?
After learning this information, I started thinking a bit more locally. Just how many trees are there in Saskatchewan’s mighty boreal forest? Our province is often thought of just the great plains, where to see a tree it to be lucky, so with a new burning curiosity I decided to find out the answer.
At first I tried to find data on my own to try and get a calculation, but alas I decided to get a business degree instead of becoming a scientist. I quickly realized that I needed professional help. I decided the best course of action was to go the experts themselves and reach out the Ministry of Environment. I sent an email to their general inbox a couple weeks ago and to be honest kind of forgot about it. That is until I got a response last night from Lane Gelhorn, an Inventory Specialist from the Forest Services with the Ministry of Environment. He provided the following information and I can't thank him enough for his help!
My alma mater taught me how to be a good marketer, not so much how to be a scientist.
Keep in mind when dealing with things this large, we can only make an educated guess using the best technology that we have available. This number may change as research methods are improved, but for today’s purposes here is the answer we’ve come to.
I count at least one tree here!
According to our current best estimate there are at least 1.88 billion trees in over 35 million hectares of boreal forest. (Plus or minus 265 million trees) This does not include trees on private land or any provincial parks south of the Provincial forests. To be qualified as a tree they must be at least 10cm wide at breast height.
Okay, so let’s soak that in. Our provincial boreal forests have at least 1.88 billion trees. That’s roughly 1660 trees per person who lives in Saskatchewan. Did you know that you have so many friends?
Let’s break it down a bit and get some more understanding. First, why is there such a big plus or minus of 265 million trees? Well the number of trees changes over time, from over 20,000 per hectare shortly after a forest fire to approximately 1,000 when the area is matured according to the Ministry of Environment. (A hectare is roughly the same size as a football field.)
Forest fires change things a bit... Photo provided by my friend Adam.
Secondly, until recently the technology to count the number of trees in the forest did not exist. Even now the current technology is still a best guess. The way we have counted trees to date is using airplanes and satellites.
Extremely skilled photo interpreters use images to assess the amount of green and shadow in an image and then use this to measure the height and estimate the area occupied by each species of tree. With improved cameras and using techniques such as LIDAR and radar the Ministry of Environment hopes to cost effectively count trees with more effectiveness in coming years.
You're telling me there is that many trees for me to pee on?!?
Until we get better technology, we will have to use this as our best guess. Which is enough for me at this point!
So the next time someone says some joke about their not being any trees in Saskatchewan you can now say there is at least 1.88 billion of them!