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Tropical forests have been called the lungs of the planet. And these hot ecosystems are being deeply altered by logging and other land use change.

Using high-resolution satellite data from protected forests in the savanna region of the Brazilian Cerrado, scientists found that the shape of these natural forests follow a predictable mathematical relationship between a forest’s perimeter and its area – regardless of its climate region or its size. They call this a “3/4 power law” and it roughly means the forests all tend toward shapes that are neither skinny like a line, nor round and smooth like a circle. “If a forest could grow easily in all directions, we’d expect a circle”, says Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, a computer scientist at the University of Vermont who is the lead author on the new study, “but what we actually see is more dendritic, a bit like an octopus or deformed circle”. The 3/4 law holds true for tiny forest fragments not much bigger than a basketball court up to large forest patches covering dozens of square miles.

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Fires, that burn easily in the grasslands surrounding forests – and singe the forests’ wet edges – are in constant battle with the forests’ expansive growth out into grasslands. This interplay at the edge between grass and forest, the scientists discovered, creates forest patches that converge on a steady-state shape.

An experiment the scientists ran on their model shows that the fate of forest patches over time – whether they expand or contract – is determined by their initial shape. Those with compact shapes of all sizes, over time, converge on the more octopus-like 3/4-power-scaling relationship, while those with skinny shapes and larger perimeter-to-area ratios collapsed, disappearing into grasslands or fragmenting into very small patches.

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Which means that this relationship between a forest’s perimeter and its area may help predict the stability of individual forest patches. (1)

Everything is determined by the initial conditions.

Initial conditions not on this Earth.

But in the world of dreams and intentions.

Look in that eye.

It is an imperfect circle.

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Together in misery…

A projection of a perfect shape.

Existing beyond existence itself…

Look in that mirror.

It is an imperfect being.

Born into an imperfect forest.

But the forest will soon burn.

Only the lake will stay there.

Look inside the lake.

A projection of a perfect God.

Living beyond life itself… Rising from the ashes of being… Molded in the fire of death… See there… Inside the flames… A forest is being born…

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