There are over 3 trillion trees on earth! 1

A recent study that’s been making its rounds on the internet combined satellite imaging with ground-based measurements and computer models to determine that the earth is covered with waaay more trees than they previously thought. (2.6 trillion more… give or take a few billion.2)

While we can’t say how many individual trees exist in the Grand Canyon, we do know that there are around 200 species.3 Most live on the North and South rims at high elevation. You won’t likely encounter a white fir or a blue spruce down at the river; however, western honey mesquite, catclaw acacia, and exotic tamarisk4 (AKA saltcedar, an invasive species managed by the park5) will be common sights.

Grand Canyon Trees, 3 trillion trees on earth

Cottonwood Tree (credit: National Park Service)

Early expeditioners recorded the presence of large cottonwoods and willow trees, but today they are much rarer, having been displaced by the aggressive tamarisk.6

If you happen to hike the Bright Angel Trail on the way into or out of the Canyon for your trip, you’ll have the opportunity to pass through a number of different ecosystems roughly divided by elevation, each featuring different types of trees.

At the top of the South Rim, you’ll be in Ponderosa Pine Forest.7 In fact, at the Grand Canyon, you’ll be in the middle of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in North America8 which covers much of Northern Arizona and the Colorado Plateau. Though this forest is relatively homogeneous, it is home to some Gambel oak, southwestern white pine, Douglas fir, white fir, and quaking aspen in addition to its namesake tree.9

The community immediately below the rim to about 4,000 feet is the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland.7 This area is dominated by drought tolerant pinyon pine, Utah juniper, and one seed juniper trees.

From about 4,500 feet to 1,200 feet is the Desert Scrub ecosystem.7 Here you’ll see a lot of by scrubby bushes rather than trees, though you will encounter some of the trees that thrive in the riparian zone at this elevation as well.

So, when you take a trip down the Colorado River, don’t forget to hug one of the 3 trillion trees on earth that you encounter on your wilderness river adventure!

1New York Times "Lots of Trees to Hug: Study Counts 3 Trillion Trees on Earth"
2BBC News "Earth’s trees number ‘three trillion’"
3National Park Service, Grand Canyon, Trees and Shrubs
4National Park Service, Grand Canyon, Plants
5Invasive Weed Awareness Coalition (IWAC) "Taking Back The Grand Canyon from Tamarisk (Saltcedar) Infestation"
6"Colorado River Native Riparian Vegetation in Grand Canyon: How Has Glen Canyon Dam Impacted These Communities?" by Susan B. Infalt
7National Park Service "Grand Canyon Ecosystems"
8Wikipedia: Coconino National Forest
9"Biotic Communities of the Colorado Plateau"

200 Species of Trees – We aren’t kidding when we call your trip a "wilderness" river adventure was last modified: September 3rd, 2015 by Jessica Clark

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