The world burns or cuts down about 15 billion trees a year through mining, logging, and urban development. However, no nations, organizations, or individuals “have been able to plant enough trees to make up for that loss,” according to National Geographic, which results in not nearly enough trees being seeded to combat deforestation.

With big implications for climate change, an increase in mass deforestation threatens the survival of millions of animal and plant species. But as ecological initiatives push to regrow forests and farms like, technology startups may finally have an answer: drones.

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Beauchamp Falls, Great Otway National Park, Victoria. (Getty Images)

We learned in elementary school that trees are good for the atmosphere because they take in harmful carbon dioxide (as well as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide) and release oxygen. Rainforests, those dense, rich, species-diverse forests, have historically been so good at this, they’ve been dubbed “the lungs of the planet.” Tropical forests store carbon, known as carbon sequestration, in their stems, leaves and roots, rather than releasing it to the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming and climate change. Unfortunately, these natural lungs appear to be losing their function, releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than they take in, according to a new study in the journal Science. Given that tropical forests store 25 percent of the global carbon and are home to 96 percent of the world's tree species, this new research reveals a potentially huge impact.

After analyzing satellite imagery of Asia, Africa and the Americas, researchers determined that deforestation, in which forests are torn down and replaced with urban spaces, farms or roads, is stealing the atmosphere-purifying power of these forests. However, it’s not just the sheer loss of numbers of trees that are responsible for the shift, the researchers say, so much as it is a decline in diversity of the kinds of trees that remain.

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CHILE - APRIL 1: Moai, megalithic anthropomorphic statues, Anakena, Rapa-Nui National Park (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1995), Easter Island, Chile. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Easter Island is famous for its iconic stone heads. These statues, known as Moai, are a mystery of human ingenuity. Standing an average of 13 feet high and weighing 14 tons each, nearly 1,000 statues are positioned around the island, which is governed by Chile. Archeologists have long debated what the statues mean and how on earth a relatively small population could manage this engineering feat in the years following the arrival of the Polynesian people in 800 A.D.

"It is amazing that an island society made of 10 to 12 chiefdoms had sufficient unity and ability to communicate carving standards, organize carving methods and achieve political rights of way … to transport statues to every part of the island," said archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg, founder of UCLA's Easter Island Statue Project. 

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[DIGEST: Scientific American, The Atlantic, CBS, Great Lakes Echo, Guardian]

North American forests are moving out. Deciduous, broadleaf species are moving west. Evergreen, needle-leaf species are moving north. The reason? Climate change.

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Credit: Source

[DIGEST: Neopress, WIRED, BioCarbon Engineering]

Hobby drones are often seen as status symbols of the tech elite. The spendy toys have been blamed for invading sensitive airspace and private property, as well as for more egregious activities, such as smuggling drugs into prisons, colliding into skyscrapers and airplanes, and interfering with firefighters’ efforts to combat wildfires.

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