A third (30%) of the world’s trees are at risk of extinction.
- Well-known trees such as magnolias and dipterocarps among most threatened, with oaks, maple (Acer) and ebonies also at risk.
- Agriculture, logging, and livestock farming are the top threats but climate change and extreme weather are emerging dangers.
- Islands including St Helena (69% of trees threatened), Madagascar (59%) and Mauritius (57%) have highest proportion of threatened trees.
(London, UK) — Today, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) has published a landmark State of the World’s Trees report. The report, compiling work led by the Global Tree Assessment (GTA), is the culmination of five years of research to identify major gaps in tree conservation efforts. It is one of the first assessments of the world’s threatened trees.
Examining the globe’s 60,000 tree species, it reveals that 30% (17,500) of tree species are currently at risk of extinction. That means there are twice the number of threatened tree species globally than threatened mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles combined.
Over 440 tree species are right on the brink of extinction, the report reveals, meaning they have fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild. These species are found all over the world, from the Mulanje cedar in Malawi, with only a few remaining individuals on Mulanje Mountain, to the Menai whitebeam found only in North Wales, which has only 30 trees remaining.
The report finds hope for the future, however, as conservation efforts led by the botanical community worldwide are growing. Identifying which trees are at risk and ensuring these are protected is the most effective way to prevent extinction and restore endangered species. The report reveals that at least 64% of all tree species can be found in at least one protected area, and about 30% can be found in botanic gardens, seed banks, or other ex situ collections, but further action is needed.
The State of the World’s Trees report brings 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.
By Jeff Grabmeier
When the summer sun blazes on a hot city street, our first reaction is to flee to a shady spot protected by a building or tree.
A new study is the first to calculate exactly how much these shaded areas help lower the temperature and reduce the “urban heat island” effect.
Researchers created an intricate 3D digital model of a section of Columbus and determined what effect the shade of the buildings and trees in the area had on land surface temperatures over the course of one hour on one summer day.
“We can use the information from our model to formulate guidelines for community greening and tree planting efforts, and even where to locate buildings to maximize shading on other buildings and roadways,” said Jean-Michel Guldmann, co-author of the study and professor emeritus of city and regional planning at The Ohio State University.
“This could have significant effects on temperatures at the street and neighborhood level.”
For example, a simulation run by the researchers in one Columbus neighborhood found on a day with a high of 93.33 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature could have been 4.87 degrees lower if the young trees already in that area were fully grown and 20 more fully grown trees had been planted.
Guldmann conducted the study with Yujin Park, who did the work as a doctoral student at Ohio State and is now an assistant professor of city and regional planning at Chung-Ang University in South Korea, and Desheng Liu, a professor of geography at Ohio State.
Their work was published online recently in the journal Computers, Environment and Urban Systems.
Researchers have long known about the urban heat island effect, in which buildings and roadways absorb more heat from the sun than rural landscapes, releasing it and increasing temperatures in cities.
One recent study found that in 60 U.S. cities, urban summer temperatures were 2.4 degrees F higher than rural temperatures – and Columbus was one of the top 10 cities with the most intense summer urban heat islands.
For this new study, Guldmann and his colleagues selected a nearly 14-square-mile area of northern Columbus that had a wide range of land uses, including single-family homes, apartment buildings, commercial and business complexes, industrial areas, recreational parks and natural areas. More than 25,000 buildings were in the study area.
The researchers created a 3D model of the study area using machine-learning techniques which combined 2D land cover maps of Columbus, as well as LiDAR data collected by the city of Columbus from an airplane. LiDAR is a laser sensor that detects the shape of objects. Combining this data resulted in a 3D model showing the exact heights and widths of buildings and trees.
They then turned to computer software that calculated the shadows cast by each of the buildings and trees in the study area over the course of a one-hour period – 11 a.m. to noon – on Sept. 14, 2015.
In addition, the researchers had data on land surface temperatures in the study area for the same date and time. That data came from a NASA satellite that uses Thermal Infrared Sensors to measure land surface temperatures at a resolution of 30 by 30 meters (about 98 by 98 feet). That resulted in surface temperatures for 39,715 points in the study area.
With that data in hand, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis to determine precisely how the shade cast by buildings and trees affected surface temperatures on that September day.
Results showed that, as expected, buildings turned up the heat in the area, but that the shadows cast by them also had a significant cooling effect on temperatures, particularly if they shaded the rooftops of adjacent buildings.
The statistical model could precisely calculate those effects, both positive and negative. For example, a 1% increase in the area of a building led to surface temperature increases between 2.6% and 3% on average.
But an increase of 1% in the area of a shaded rooftop led to temperature decreases between 0.13% and 0.31% on average.
Shade on roadways and parking lots also significantly decreased temperatures.
“We learned that greater heat-mitigation effects can be obtained by maximizing the shade on building rooftops and roadways,” Guldmann said.
Results also showed the importance of green spaces and water for lowering temperatures. Grassy areas, both shaded and exposed, showed significant heat-reducing effects. However, the impact of shaded grass was stronger than that of grass exposed to direct sunlight.
The volume of tree canopies and the area of water bodies also had significant cooling effects.
In the simulation run in the Columbus neighborhood, the researchers calculated that if the current trees there were fully grown, the temperature on a 93.33-degree F day would be 3.48 degrees lower (89.85 degrees).
But that’s not all. The simulation showed that if the neighborhood had 20 more full-grown trees, the temperature would be another 1.39 degrees lower.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today unveiled the new Southeast FireMap, a fire mapping tool for the Southeastern United States that enables resource managers to improve their regional or local approaches to managing wildfire risk and fire management needs through targeted prescribed burns and training. Fire management helps improve forest ecosystem health, increases timber values, reduces the risk of wildfire damage to life and property, reduces ticks and other pests, protects drinking water, and renews healthy ecosystems supporting wildlife habitat, especially in fire-dependent longleaf pine forests.
The SE FireMap version 1.0 decision support tool will map all detectable fires, including managed prescribed burns and wildfires, across nine states. The map and associated tools aim to improve fire management in urban and rural communities through remote sensing and will track both prescribed fire and wildfires throughout Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
The SE FireMap version 1.0 is a Google Earth Engine product and data sharing is available for conservation and community planning purposes. To see the mapping products or request data sharing, visit the partnerships’ Wildland Fire Portal or the SE FireMap. For more information, the Southern Fire Exchange will host a webinar on April 16, 2021. Follow this link to register.
NORTH BAY — The Ontario government released Sustainable Growth: Ontario’s Forest Sector Strategy, the province’s plan to create jobs and encourage economic growth in the forest industry. The strategy will support the Indigenous, northern and rural communities that depend on the sector, while ensuring the province’s forests stay healthy for generations to come. The announcement was made today by John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“Our government has developed a strategy that will help create more good-paying jobs for Ontarians and provide greater opportunity in communities that depend on the forestry sector,” said Minister Yakabuski. “At the same time, we are taking steps to protect our forests. Ontario’s sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and are continuously reviewed and improved to ensure the long-term health of our forests while providing social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone across the province.”
The fundamental pillar of the strategy is the promotion of stewardship and sustainability, recognizing the importance of keeping Crown forests healthy, diverse, and productive so Ontario’s forest industry can remain viable over the long term. The strategy also focusses on the importance of putting more wood to work, improving cost competitiveness, and fostering innovation, new markets and talent.
FAO launched today the most comprehensive forestry assessment to date in an innovative and easy-to-use digital format.
Available for public viewing, the Global Forest Resources Assessment report (FRA 2020) and its first-ever online interactive dissemination platform contain detailed regional and global analyses for 236 countries and territories.
Users can now consult a comparable and consistent set of more than 60 forest indicators across countries and regions and download the requested data in a non-proprietary digital format. Monitoring of change over time is also possible in parameters such as forest area, management, ownership and use.
The FRA 2020 key findings:
- The world has a total forest area of 4.06 billion hectares, which is about 31 percent of the total land area. Europe, including Russian Federation, accounts for 25 percent of the world’s forest area, followed by South America (21 percent), North and Central America (19 percent), Africa (16 percent), Asia (15 percent) and Oceania (5 percent).
- The global forest area continues to decrease, and the world has lost 178 million hectares of forest since 1990. However, the rate of net forest loss decreased substantially over the period 1990-2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation and natural expansion of forests.
- Africa has the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010-2020, at 3.9 million hectares, followed by South America, at 2.6 million hectares. The highest net gain of forest area in 2010-2020 was found in Asia.
- Since 1990 an estimated 420 million ha of forest has been lost worldwide through deforestation, conversion of forest to other land use such as agriculture. However, the rate of forest loss has declined substantially. In the most recent five-year period (2015-2020), the annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares, down from 12 million hectares in 2010-2015 and 16 million hectares in 1990-2000.
- The area of forest in protected areas has increased by 191 million ha since 1990, and has now reached an estimated 726 million ha (18 percent of the total forest area of reporting countries). In addition, the area of forest under management plans is increasing in all regions – globally, it has increased by 233 million ha since 2000, reaching slightly over two billion hectares in 2020.
- Top ten countries worldwide for average annual net losses of forest area between 2010 and 2020 are: Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Angola, United Republic of Tanzania, Paraguay, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Mozambique.
- Top ten countries for average annual net gains in forest area in the same period are: China, Australia, India, Chile, Viet Nam, Turkey, United States of America, France, Italy, Romania.
By Rob Jordan
It costs more than a new iPhone XS, and it’s made out of hazelnut shrub stems. Traditional baby baskets of Northern California’s Yurok and Karuk tribes come at a premium not only because they are handcrafted by skilled weavers, but because the stems required to make them are found only in forest understory areas experiencing a type of controlled burn once practiced by the tribes but suppressed for more than a century.
A new Stanford-led study with the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with the Yurok and Karuk tribes found that incorporating traditional techniques into current fire suppression practices could help revitalize American Indian cultures, economies and livelihoods, while continuing to reduce wildfire risks. The findings could inform plans to incorporate the cultural burning practices into forest management across an area one and a half times the size of Rhode Island.
“Burning connects many tribal members to an ancestral practice that they know has immense ecological and social benefit especially in the aftermath of industrial timber activity and ongoing economic austerity,” said study lead author Tony Marks-Block, a doctoral candidate in anthropology who worked with Lisa Curran, the Roger and Cynthia Lang Professor in Environmental Anthrolopogy.
“We must have fire in order to continue the traditions of our people,” said Margo Robbins, a Yurok basket weaver and director of the Yurok Cultural Fire Management Council who advised the researchers. “There is such a thing as good fire.”
The study, published in Forest Ecology and Management, replicates Yurok and Karuk fire treatments that involve cutting and burning hazelnut shrub stems. The approach increased the production of high-quality stems (straight, unbranched and free of insect marks or bark blemishes) needed to make culturally significant items such as baby baskets and fish traps up to 10-fold compared with untreated shrubs.
Reducing fuel load
Previous studies have shown that repeated prescribed burning reduces fuel for wildfires, thus reducing their intensity and size in seasonally dry forests such as the one the researchers studied in the Klamath Basin area near the border with Oregon. This study was part of a larger exploration of prescribed burns being carried out by Stanford and U.S. Forest Service researchers who collaborated with the Yurok and Karuk tribes to evaluate traditional fire management treatments. Together, they worked with a consortium of federal and state agencies and nongovernmental organizations across 5,570 acres in the Klamath Basin.
The consortium has proposed expanding these “cultural burns” – which have been greatly constrained throughout the tribes’ ancestral lands – across more than 1 million acres of federal and tribal lands that are currently managed with techniques including less targeted controlled burns or brush removal.
By Joan Conrow
Fifteen scientists published a letter in Science Magazine today calling on international forest certification programs to review and modify policies that exclude genetically engineered or gene-edited trees.
Their call reflects the sentiments of some 1,000 signatories from across the globe who signed a recent petition managed by the Alliance for Science.
The statement is important because more than 500 million hectares — some 13 percent of the world’s forest — are affected by the largest certification systems, which are intended to reassure consumers that the wood they buy is sustainably sourced. The scientists argue that genetically engineered (GE) trees can make significant contributions to sustainable forest management — especially now that forests face mounting stresses posed by invasive pests and climate change.
“To face the challenges of forest health, carbon sequestration, and maintenance of other ecological services, we must use all available tools,” they wrote. “GE tree research should be allowed immediately on certified land, and GE trees proven by research to provide value should eventually be allowed in certified forests.”
In making their call, the scientists noted the “great promise” shown by field trials of trees with traits related to sustainability, such as productivity, wood quality, pest and stress resistance, protection of endangered species and reproductive control. They also pointed out that there are no hazards unique to GE methods compared with conventional breeding methods.
By Jennifer Moore Myers
In 1989, South Carolina’s Francis Marion National Forest lost close to a third of its pine and hardwood trees to Hurricane Hugo. USDA Forest Service land managers have spent the last thirty years recovering from that disturbance and working to meet the state’s growing needs for clean water, forest products, recreation areas, and wildlife habitat.
To that end, the Francis Marion adopted a new forest plan in 2017 focused upon restoring longleaf pine, the once-dominant southern species, across 33,000 acres of national forest lands.
This goal and the management work to implement it are based on a body of experimental research about forest ecology and hydrology — much of it conducted on the Santee Experimental Forest.
The Santee sits on the west side of the Francis Marion. Established in 1937, it’s a 6,100-acre living laboratory that has hosted many long-term studies on the effects of fire, hurricanes, and forest management practices on tree growth, streamflow, and wildlife communities.
SRS scientists and national forest managers have teamed up to study the impacts of replacing existing loblolly pine stands with longleaf pine.
Earlier, fine-scale studies suggest that water yield from longleaf pine landscapes may be greater than that from loblolly pine or mixed pine and hardwood stands due to differences in forest structure and composition between the two pine environments.
“Longleaf pine restoration is a priority for the Southern Region of the National Forest System,” says research soil scientist Carl Trettin. “This project is an opportunity to advance the current science on longleaf restoration to broader scales as well as support the Region and the Forest.”
A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.
A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.
Only a fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified through efforts to understand their contributions to global nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles. In Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Characterizing the diversity of microbial cells in a handful of soil is so complex it was considered impossible. To date, only a small fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified as part of efforts to understand their contributions to the global carbon cycle, and to other nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles.
Reported November 19, 2018, in Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst). As the name implies, giant viruses are characterized by disproportionately large genomes and virions that house the viruses’ genetic material. They have been frequently found within protists and algae, and thus they are believed to have a significant impact on their hosts’ population dynamics and the planet’s biogeochemical cycles.