for National Geographic News
Forests are branching out across the planet anew, raising hopes that an end to deforestation may be in sight, a new study claims.
The study suggests that deforestation is not as drastic as it once was and that forests are recovering in many countries.
The researchers say that over the past 15 years the amount of woodland has increased in 22 of the world's 50 most forested nations.
China and the U.S. have achieved the greatest overall forest expansion, the team says, while tree cover has spread fastest in China, Vietnam, and Spain.
Asia as a whole is shown to have gained 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of forest between 2000 and 2005.
"Earth has suffered an epidemic of deforestation," said co-researcher Jesse Ausubel, from Rockefeller University in New York City.
"Now humans may help spread an epidemic of forest restoration."
Ausubel said the trend identified in the study could "stop the styling of a skinhead Earth" and lead to a 10 percent increase in global forest coveran area the size of Indiaby 2050.
The team reports its findings this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This encouraging picture of global forest growth comes from an international research team that studied data from a 2005 forest-resources assessment by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The team advocates "a more sophisticated approach" to measuring forest cover.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES