What provides habitat for half the world’s known plants and animals, is a vital component of biodiversity and an important economic crop? If you guessed trees, you have an inkling of their importance in the world — and will be horrified that a new study says many tree species are at risk of extinction.
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Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) released its State of the World’s Trees report on Wednesday. And like much news these days, it’s grim reading. The U.K.-based conservation group deduced that 17,500 types of trees face possible extinction. That’s about 30% of Earth’s tree species. Already, 440 species don’t even have 50 individuals left growing wild. And 142 or more are now extinct in their natural habitats.
“This report is a wake-up call to everyone around the world that trees need help,” BGCI secretary general Paul Smith said in a statement. “Every tree species matters—to the millions of other species that depend on trees, and to people all over the world,” he said. “For the first time… we can pinpoint exactly which tree species need our help, so policymakers and conservation experts can deploy the resources and expertise needed to prevent future extinctions.”
Logging, invasive pests, disease, forest clearance and other types of habitat loss all threaten tree species. Nor is climate change helping. The most tree diversity is found in hotter places, as is the most danger to those trees. Central and South America lead in number of tree species, followed by tropical parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. Madagascar — with 1,842 threatened tree species — is the single country with the most endangered trees. Brazil and Indonesia follow, with 1,788 and 1,306 threatened species respectively. More temperate areas of Europe, North America and Asia have both less tree diversity and fewer species threatened by extinction.
The report recommends actions to help trees, including forming a new global coalition to radically scale up tree conservation, better dissemination of research on the conservation of tree species, better monitoring and making sure that threatened species are saved in seed banks. Tree conservation also needs more funding and better data collection, according to the report.
Via Common Dreams
Lead image via Pexels