30% of Earth’s Tree Species Nearly Extinct

Image: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas via Wikimedia Commons

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer


new assessment found that at least 30% of the world’s 60,000 tree species are nearing extinction in the wild. The number of tree species threatened— 17,500— is twice that of threatened mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles combined. 

Why this Matters: Trees are crucial to maintaining the earth’s ecosystems. Trees not only house flora and fauna but also help mitigate the effects of climate change. Forests sequester almost one-third of the world’s emissions and provide much-needed shade as the world’s cities get hotter. 

But over the past 300 years, global forest area has dangerously dwindled by about 40%, while 29 countries have seen over 90% of their forest cover disappear.

“Each tree species has a unique ecological role to play,” Dr. Malin Rivers of the charity Botanic Gardens Conservation International told the BBC“With 30% of the world’s tree species threatened with extinction, we need to urgently scale up conservation action.”

Saving the Trees

About 142 species have already gone extinct, and 442 have fewer than 50 individuals left alive. According to this new assessment, the biggest threats to the world’s trees are razing forests to grow crops (impacting 29% of species), logging (27%), livestock grazing or farming (14%), development (13%), and fire (13%).

To combat this potential mass extinction, experts recommend that governments invest in preserving existing forests, expanding protected areas, storing species near extinction in botanical gardens or seed banks, and collecting money for tree conservation. 

“The report gives us that road map to mobilize the wider conservation community and other key players to ensure that tree conservation is at the forefront of the conservation agenda,” said Rivers.

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