Nearly One-Third of Wild Tree Species Are Threatened with Extinction, Report Warns

Over the past 300 years, the forested areas on our planet have shrunk by 40 percent, researchers found.

By Costas Vasilopoulos
Sep. 16, 2021 11:08 UTC

One in three trees in the forests and wood­lands of the planet face extinc­tion, a report pub­lished by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), a non-profit char­ity, has found.

More than 17,500 wild tree species are cur­rently under threat, the report stated, which is twice the num­ber of endan­gered mam­mals, birds, amphib­ians and rep­tiles put together.

If we lose the trees, we lose every­thing: we lose the birds, the ani­mals, the plants and fungi that depend on it.- Emily Beech, researcher, Botanic Gardens Conservation International

The fig­ure may be even higher as well since many tree species are recorded as not-threat­ened” by sci­en­tists due to a lack of ade­quate sci­en­tific research.

See Also:Europe Announces Plan to Plant 3 Billion Trees by 2030

Forests have already lost 142 known tree species, while another 442 are on the brink of becom­ing extinct with only 50 or fewer indi­vid­ual trees remain­ing.

This report is a wake-up call to every­one around the world that trees need help,” said Paul Smith, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of BGCI.

Brazil, which boasts the rich­est plant diver­sity in the world, stands out as the coun­try with the most endan­gered types of trees, 1,788, fol­lowed by China with 890 wild tree species under threat.

Tropical islands, includ­ing Madagascar, also exhibit a high level of threat­ened trees, and even European coun­tries are start­ing to lose seg­ments of their wild tree species.

Wild trees are mostly threat­ened by human activ­i­ties such as for­est clear­ance to expand agri­cul­tural land, live­stock graz­ing and farm­ing, tim­ber log­ging and nat­u­rally occur­ring or human-caused wild­fires. Other emerg­ing threats are cli­mate change and extreme weather events, which can fuel phe­nom­ena includ­ing ris­ing sea lev­els.

Oak trees, ebony, rose­wood, mag­no­lias and dipte­ro­carps, a large trop­i­cal tree, among oth­ers, are all in great peril.

We have nearly 60,000 tree species on the planet, and for the first time we now know which of these species are in need of con­ser­va­tion action, what are the great­est threats to them and where they are,” said Malin Rivers, a researcher at BGCI.

The sci­en­tists also stressed the sig­nif­i­cance of tree species and the impor­tant role they play in nature.

For a healthy world, we need tree species diver­sity,” said Sara Oldfield of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, who con­tributed to the report.

Each tree species has a unique eco­log­i­cal role to play,” she added. With 30 per­cent of the world’s tree species threat­ened with extinc­tion, we need to urgently scale up con­ser­va­tion action.”

Another impor­tant para­me­ter to take into account in the strug­gle to pro­tect wild trees is tree blind­ness,” described as the obliv­i­ous­ness peo­ple exhibit when it comes to the irre­versible loss of dif­fer­ent kinds of species.

Most peo­ple asso­ciate species of extinc­tion with beau­ti­ful ani­mals like tigers or rhi­nos,” said Emily Beech, another report con­trib­u­tor.

More money is being spent on the preser­va­tion of ani­mals than on trees,” she added. But what most peo­ple don’t real­ize is that if we lose the trees, we lose every­thing: we lose the birds, the ani­mals, the plants and fungi that depend on it.”

Over the past 300 years, the forested areas on the planet have shrunk by 40 per­cent and 29 coun­tries have already lost more than 90 per­cent of their for­est cover.

Action is needed to avert the decline of wild trees, the report warned, includ­ing fund­ing to pre­serve the tree species, edu­ca­tion to achieve refor­esta­tion in defor­ested areas, and care­fully designed plant­ing pro­grams to increase the pop­u­la­tions of trees at risk.


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