FEARS of a "skinhead" Earth devoid of any trees appear to be unfounded, according to new research which shows forests making a comeback in China and India.
An international team of scientists, including Aberdeen University academic Professor Alexander Mather, found that 22 out of the world's 50 most forested countries were now increasing the amount of woodland and predicted that a "great restoration of the landscape" could begin by 2050.
While global forests are still in decline, China, Vietnam and Spain have seen significant net increases from 1990 to 2005 and India's forests are now stable.
Jesse Ausubel, director of the programme for the human environment at Rockefeller University in the US, said: "Earth suffered an epidemic of de-forestation. Now humans may help spread an epidemic of forest restoration.
"This great reversal in land use could stop the styling of a 'skinhead Earth', expanding the global forest by 10 per cent, about 300 million hectares, the area of India."
The researchers said the point at which the world started planting more trees than it felled depended largely on Brazil and Indonesia, where huge areas of tropical forests are still being rapidly cut and cleared.