Satellite images revealed that trees are beginning to appear in areas previously considered barren

Seemingly barren areas, in Western Sahara and the Sahel, have revealed something surprising. Satellite images found that around 1.8 billion trees are growing in the region.

According to the professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the research, Martin Brandt, there are certainly vast areas without trees, but among the sand dunes you can see some trees growing.

The research provides researchers with data that can help guide efforts to combat deforestation.

“For preservation, restoration, climate change and so on, data like this is very important for establishing a baseline,” says Jesse Meyer, a programmer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre who worked on the research. “In a year, two or ten years, the study can be repeated to see whether efforts to revitalize and reduce deforestation have been effective or not,” he said in a NASA press release.

Wooded areas

In more wooded areas they appear more clearly on satellite images, even at low resolution, and are easily distinguishable. But in regions where the green is reduced, satellite images may have difficulties in detecting individual trees or even in small groups.

Even with the availability of high-resolution images, counting individual trees, especially in vast areas of the territory, is an almost impossible task. So, Brandt and his team found a solution. They are using a computer program with Deep Learning to do the job for them.

The research, published in the journal Nature, covered an area of ​​1.3 million square kilometres and analysed more than 11,000 images.

The technique suggests that in the future it will be possible to map the location and size of each tree worldwide. This would help to determine how much carbon is being stored in these locations. But for now, it is too early to say whether an accurate count of each tree’s life will affect how we understand climate change and its acceleration, according to Brandt. What he wants now is to use the technique elsewhere, to map more trees.

Lockdown, Mental Health and Nature

As a human being, we are genetically programmed to find plants, trees, water, and other wildlife engrossing, we are fascinated by wildlife scenes and distracted from our anxiety and pain. Staying in nature can be the solution for our mental wellbeing.

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease – 2019) pandemic has impacted the lives of millions of people around the globe. Such a contagious disease, inducing stimulus hominoid behaviours and resulting in severe psychological problems amongst the ones having no previous mental conditions as well as worsening the ones with pre-existing mental health problems. This psychological dilemma, in particular fear and sadness, is a consequence of the pandemic’s adverse impact upon people’s mental ability.

Researchers are continuously recognising the benefits of natural exposure to the immune system, mood, and mental well-being. Feeling nature and smell of greenery has shown lower anxiety level, help people feel calm and more control over their emotions.

Some of the health benefits of exposure to green spaces and trees include: lower stress level, higher energy level and attention, higher immune functioning, healing along with mood and sleep improvement.

Whether you are feeling low, depressed or just need to improve your emotional health in a current pandemic situation, start exploring nature, find the wildlife, trees, plants, visit the parks, these will uplift your mood and will eliminate your anxious thoughts. Engross nature through all of your senses, listen to the birds chirping, smell freshly cut grass, walk in the park, dip your toes in a stream and just feel the rhythm of nature.

Nature is a buffer in reducing the worse impacts of anxiety-ridden events on humans,” said Masashi Soga, PhD, The University of Tokyo. Trees and green spaces are essential part of the social well-being, they improve both physical and mental well-being, the more critical aspect during this COVID-19 outbreak.

Time spent in green spaces, like trees and parks significantly lowers your cortisol, the stress hormone and boosts your immunity against diseases. Exposure to nature can relieve your stress within minutes, uplifts your mood, raises endorphin and dopamine levels, the ultimate hormones for happiness.

Always pause and listen: listen to the melodious sounds of nature, listen to birds, smell the trees, walk in a park, or listen to the moving stream, they might help lower your stress levels.

The modern life has transformed drastically, but our minds have mostly remained the same. The deep connection with nature stayed, if we don’t sustain the bond with nature, we may suffer in many ways in future.