How Many Trees On This Planet?


The scientific journal Nature is not one of our regular sources for stories here, but when the Science section of the Times points out a good story, we listen. To our surprise, even the Real Estate section of the Times can point out must-read stories from Nature (the slide show is worth the click):

Time to Put the Garden to Bed?

There are 422 living trees for every human on Earth — 3.04 trillion overall — and during a couple of weeks each fall, a person can feel plainly outnumbered. Is it possible that a trillion of those trees have deposited their leaves in the front yard? And why are so many of them still green?

That global tree census comes from a 2015 study in the journal Nature. And reading its methodology in full — biome-level validation estimates! predictive regression models! — would be a perfectly good way to put off the job of going out to the garage, grabbing a rake and getting to work on a few of those leaves.

Gardening in November: Why bother? And haven’t we already missed our chance? In 2016, the first freeze sauntered into New York on Dec. 9. This year, it crashed the harvest festival a full month earlier. And 2018 — so we’re assuming the Earth will continue spinning on its axis? We’re a nation of gamblers.

The garden tool to battle indeterminacy, however, turns out to be routine. Were you to call a half-dozen super-gardeners around the metro area and ask for their fall cleanup regime, you’d come away with an authoritative to-do list.

What seems at first like an undifferentiated pile of drudgery can, in fact, be divided into three categories: tasks that need doing for the health and hygiene of the garden; tasks that could be done to tidy up the place; and tasks that a more organized, more ambitious and generally better person would do to create a thriving garden next spring.

But wait, there’s a fourth category, the refuge of idlers — and also, as it happens, backyard ecologists. We’ll save that option for the end.

Life and limb: Let’s start there. Annie Novak, 34, who raises produce at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has a cautionary message for the patio and balcony gardeners of New York: “It’s a hazard to have a lightweight container system on your roof.”

Once you pull the tomato vines out of a planter and stop watering, what remains on the roof is a projectile. “If you can lift something up,” Ms. Novak warned, “so can the wind.”…

Read the whole story here.

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