After counting Sahara and Sahel desert trees, scientists reveal surprising result


The research was conducted in the deserts of Western Sahara and Sahel, using artificial intelligence of deep learning and satellite data.

A team of researchers investigated the African desert regions of Western Sahara and Sahel, and discovered something unexpected: an area similar in size to Peru has about 1.8 billion trees, reports the AFP agency.

Scientists used satellite images and combined them with a deep learning artificial intelligence program to count the trees, but before that, Martin Brandt, professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, had to count and classify nearly 90,000 himself trees for about a year.

“We were very surprised that there are so many trees growing in the Sahara desert,” said the study’s lead author, published in the journal Nature.

Although deserts are considered vast monotonous areas, with little life, Brandt indicates that these places hide a great heterogeneity.

“There are certainly vast areas without them [√°rvores], but there are still some with high density, and even between the sand dunes there are specimens growing here and there “.

Trees in the Sahara desert (reference image)

The study was based on hard data, rather than estimates and extrapolations. Counting would have taken millions of days of processing work, rather than the hours it took the information to be computed, Brandt said.

Magnifying glass study

Niall P. Hanan and Julius Anchang, from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the State University of New Mexico, USA, reviewed the study in the journal Nature and said that with technical advances “it will soon be possible, with some limitations, to map the location and the size of each tree in the world “, located in the 65 million square kilometers of arid regions around the planet.

“For preservation, restoration, climate change, etc., data like this is very important for establishing a baseline,” points out in a statement Jesse Meyer, a programmer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who participated in the research.

“In one, two or ten years, the study could be repeated […] to see if efforts to revitalize and reduce deforestation are effective or not, “he said.


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