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Still Waters

'Barren' deserts have millions of trees

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Still Waters

At first glance the apparently barren expanses of the Sahel and Sahara deserts feature little greenery, but detailed satellite imagery combined with computer deep learning has revealed a different picture.

In fact, some 1.8 billion trees dot parts of the West African Sahara and Sahel deserts and so-called sub-humid zone, a previously uncounted bounty that overturns previous assumptions about such habitats, researchers say.

"We were very surprised that there are quite (so) many trees growing in the Sahara desert," lead author Martin Brandt told AFP.

"Certainly there are vast areas without any trees, but there are still areas with a high tree density, and even between the sandy dunes there are here and there some trees growing," added Brandt, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen.



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This study considered any woody plant to be a "tree."  Most woody plants are bushes.

The US has about 4500 species of woody plants that never get big enough to use for lumber.

There is a Mediterranean cypress in the Atlas Mountains that is about 4500 years old and stands over 100 feet tall.  So the Sahara actually has some real trees.


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