1/3 of the global tree species are threatened with extinction - Africa Green Magazine

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1/3 of the global tree species are threatened with extinction


1/3 of the global tree species are threatened with extinction

AGM/     The IUCN Congress kicked off yesterday September 3rd, 2021 at Marseille France. Most often, when conservation is mentionned, what come on the mind is fauna. Trees are home for a good number of species and help in the equilibrum of terrestral ecosystems. Their conservation is a top priority.

Harrison Ford
We are ambitious for perfect solutions, perfect policies, ... nobody's got that luxury any more,we got to get to work,we got to make things happen, we got to make it happen now”, Said Harrison Ford, actor and environmental activist at the opening ceremony of the IUCN congress. 

According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2019, “The world is facing a biodiversity crisis and around 1 million animal and plant species are estimated to be threatened with extinction”. Trees are highly visible in most landscapes and are excellent biodiversity indicators. They are ecologically, culturally and economically of vital importance and yet there have been surprising gaps in knowledge of the diversity, distribution, abundance and conservation status of trees at a global scale.

The Global Tree Assessment (GTA) report presents a summary of what is known about tree species around the world. Through the Global Tree Assessment, intensive research has been undertaken over the past five years to compile extinction risk information on the 58,497 tree species worldwide. We now know that 30% of tree species are threatened with extinction, of which some represented by one last living individual, and at least 142 tree species are recorded as extinct in the wild. The main threats to tree species are forest clearance and other forms of habitat loss, direct exploitation for timber and other products and the spread of invasive pests and diseases. Climate change is also having a clearly measurable impact.

Tree diversity is unevenly distributed across the globe. The largest number of tree species is in Central and South America, followed by the other tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Africa. The highest proportion of threatened species is found in Tropical Africa, which includes Madagascar which is one of the countries with the highest level of threatened trees. Temperate zones of Europe, Asia and North America which have relatively low tree diversity also have the lowest proportion of tree species which are threatened with extinction.

The detailed tree species information used to compile the report is now available on the Global Tree Portal, a new major tool to support forestry, biodiversity conservation and climate change policy and action for tree species.

The Global Tree Assessment has developed a strategic approach to data collection on tree species involving an extensive global network of organizations and individual experts. The network coordinated by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), working in partnership with the IUCN Species Survival Commission Global Tree Specialist Group, aims to complete comprehensive conservation assessments on the IUCN Red List of all tree species by 2023, building on and amplifying earlier initiatives.


Trees are one of the most familiar forms of life for all humans and represent the largest part of earth biomass. They can be found in most regions of the world. For most people trees may all look rather similar but, with nearly 60,000 species in existence, they constitute a very diverse group and form the most diverse habitats on the planet. A huge number of other species (epiphytic plants, fungi, birds, mammals, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, etc) depend on their presence. Their protection leads to enormous benefits to humans and wildlife alike.

Unfortunately, many people continue to see trees mostly as a source of wood, which faces an unsustainable and growing demand. This, added to destructive agriculture practices, leads to the disappearance of forests all around the globe, the replacement of “non-productive” species by fast growing tree species and the impoverishment of tree diversity.

Now that the state of forests and the level of greenhouse gas emissions have reached a critical state, there is fortunately a new focus on trees. Through reforestation efforts, there is a huge opportunity to change this dire picture but tree planting practices largely need to change. Forests can regenerate naturally if given a little time to rest and when tree planting is needed, in particular for threatened tree species that have reached very low numbers of individuals, the right species need to be planted in the right place.



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