There are now officially more trees in the world than there was 20 years ago. This is according to a recent NASA report. Based on satellite images, the green patches are equivalent to the areas covered by all the Amazon Forests combined. 

The good news, which was posted on NASA’s website, shared that the greening efforts came mostly from China and India. Both countries are two of the world’s most populated nations. NASA pointed out that the efforts were a result of China’s aggressive tree planting programs and intensive agricultural efforts from both countries.

According to the report, the greening effort was detected during the mid-1990s by Ranga Myneni of Boston University along with his colleagues. It wasn’t sure, however, if the greening was due to human activity. The statement is a result of over 20 years of data gathering courtesy of the NASA instrument, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS, which is orbiting the Earth on two satellites.

The greening efforts are quite significant as the new green patches which are made-up of plants and trees are now equivalent to areas covered by the Amazon forests. That’s an extra 2 million square miles of green patches per year or a 5 percent increase since the early 2000s.

“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation – a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,” Chi Chen of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University and lead author of the study, said.

Another positive take on the phenomenon is that the data gathered by MODIS show the greening efforts were largely due to human contribution. This shows that humankind is taking issues like climate change seriously and are actively doing something about it.

“This long-term data let us dig deeper. 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, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance. Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing,” Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and co-author of the new work, said.  

Although China and India’s greening initiatives still don’t offset the loss of vegetation in tropical areas such as Brazil and Indonesia, the data can be used to make better predictions and ultimately better decisions regarding various Earth systems.