A global assessment of the world’s 60,000 tree species has found that a third of them are at risk of extinction.
The Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) State of the World’s Trees report found that 30 per cent of the world’s tree species are currently at risk of extinction, and over 440 tree species have fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild.
The report is one of the first assessments of the world’s threatened trees, bringing together research from over 60 institutional partners, including botanic gardens, forestry institutions and universities worldwide, as well as more than 500 experts who have contributed to tree assessments in the last five years.
Professor Adrian Newton, Professor of Conservation Ecology at BU, was one of the contributors. He came up with the idea for a conservation assessment of the world’s tree species several years ago.
He said: “This report represents an important milestone in global biodiversity conservation. For the first time we know not only how many tree species there are in the world, but how many of them are threatened with extinction.
"When I came up with the idea of the Global Tree Assessment back in 2015, I really doubted that it would ever actually happen, because the idea was so ambitious. Nothing on this scale has been attempted before, because the number of species is so large. The final report represents a really tremendous effort by all the specialists throughout the world who contributed to the assessment, as well as the coordinating team at BGCI, who did a great job.”
The report found that the greatest threats facing trees include habitat loss from agriculture and grazing, followed by over-exploitation from logging and harvesting. Trees are also at risk of losing habitats through climate change and extreme weather.
In the report, BGCI recommend five key actions for policymakers and experts in order to protect and bring back threatened species. They include extending protected area coverage for species which are at risk; expanding tree planting schemes; and ensuring globally threatened species are, where possible, conserved in botanic garden and seed bank collections.
Professor Newton said: “Given the outstanding importance of many tree species both for wildlife and people, this report shows that there is an urgent need for action to prevent thousands of threatened species from going extinct.”
Paul Smith, Secretary General of BGCI, said: “This report is a wake-up call to everyone around the world that trees need help. Every tree species matters - to the millions of other species that depend on trees, and to people all over the world.
"For the first time, thanks to the information provided by the State of the World’s Tree Report 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.”