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 Mike Gaworecki
A study published in the journal Science Advances this month found that, between 2000 and 2013, the global area of intact forest landscape declined by 7.2 percent, a reduction of 919,000 square kilometers, or a little over 227 million acres.
Intact forest landscapes (IFLs) are areas of natural land cover that are large and undisturbed enough to retain all their native plant and animal communities — defined at 500 square kilometers. For an IFL to be considered “lost,” its vegetation needs to be degraded to an extent at which it can no longer support its original levels of biodiversity.
Among the study’s other findings, one in particular was quite surprising: Certification of logging concessions, which aims to ensure sustainable forest management practices, had a “negligible” impact on slowing the fragmentation of IFLs in the Congo Basin, home to the world’s second-largest rainforest as well as high levels of biodiversity, including more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species.
A collection of studies published by the journal PLOS ONE earlier this month evaluates the effectiveness of numerous tropical forest conservation policies and programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
By Mike Gaworecki
A multitude of conservation strategies are currently deployed across the tropics in order to curb deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and mitigate global warming. But conservationists and researchers often point to a need for more and better evaluations of the effectiveness of this diversity of conservation initiatives in order to determine what actually works and what doesn’t.
A collection of studies published by the journal PLOS ONE earlier this month seeks to fill this knowledge gap by evaluating the effectiveness of numerous tropical forest conservation policies and programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, including certification schemes, community-based forest management, forest law enforcement, payments for ecosystem services, and protected areas.
An overview study led by Jan Börner of Germany’s University of Bonn and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) focuses on annual forest cover change as a measure of the conservation effects estimated by the 14 studies in the collection. The latest assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that Earth’s overall natural forest cover continues to shrink, though at a slower annual rate than in the past. “Reduced deforestation rates may be the result of slower economic growth, decreasing demand for cleared land in urbanizing economies, or a sign that conservation policies are succeeding,” Börner and his co-authors write in the overview study.