For Earth Month, a symmetrical forest known as a Nelder plot
© Rachid Dahnoun/Tandem Stills + Motio
Branch out for Earth Month. Taking the forest to the cloud
For Earth Month, we’re highlighting the power of trees, which help to clean our air and watersheds while providing habitat for myriad species, including our own. In urban areas, trees provide unique benefits by cooling area temperatures, producing oxygen, increasing property values, and generally improving the scenery.But most trees in the United States are in forests. Roughly one-third of the country is covered by forests, and in many respects, they’re considered healthy. After centuries of forest clearing for settlement and development, total forest acreage in the US has held fairly steady for the past 100 years or so. But forests still face a variety of threats, from invasive species to disease and climate change.Given these threats, some scientists are turning to modern technology to measure forest health. For example, the experimental planting featured on our homepage today is called a Nelder plot, in which trees are planted at the intersections of concentric arcs and linear spokes. The design allows researchers to study the effects of many different planting densities in a single parcel. In another example, a company called SilviaTerra uses satellite imagery and artificial intelligence to create detailed maps of US forests that conservationists, governments, and landowners can use to develop management plans.