• India and China are leading the global greening effort, which is quite contrary to the general perception worldwide, a study based on NASA satellite data has said, observing that the world is a greener place than it was 20 years ago.
  • China and India account for one-third of the greening but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation.
  • That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from over exploitation.
  • The study published on February 11, in the journal Nature Sustainability said that satellite data (2000 – 2017) revealed a greening pattern strikingly prominent in China and India and overlapping with croplands worldwide.
  • China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area with only 6.6% of global vegetated area.
  • The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%), but in India it is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%), the study said.
  • China is engineering ambitious programmes to conserve and expand forests with the goal of mitigating land degradation, air pollution and climate change.
  • Food production in China and India has increased by over 35% since 2000 mostly owing to an increase in harvested area through multiple cropping facilitated by fertiliser use and surface or groundwater irrigation.
  • When the greening of the earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • The study was made possible thanks to a two-decade-long data record from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.
  • Now with the MODIS data, we see that humans are also contributing.
  • The researchers also pointed out that the gain in greenness around the world does not necessarily offset the loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions such as Brazil and Indonesia.