A report titled The State of the World’s Trees says that well-known trees such as magnolias are among the most threatened, while oaks, maples and ebonies are also at risk.
Around a third of all the world’s tree species are on the brink of extinction, according to a global index, warning that climate change could tip some forests into ecosystem collapse.
The State of the World’s Trees report was published on Wednesday by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).
The study looked at the risks to more than 58,000 tree species worldwide and found that 30 percent are threatened with extinction, with a further seven percent listed as “possibly threatened”.
There was no data for an evaluation for 21 percent of species. Only 40 percent were listed as “not threatened”.
Well-known trees such as magnolias were among the most threatened, while oaks, maples and ebonies were also deemed at risk.
Some 142 tree species were found to be already extinct, and more than 440 are in serious danger with having fewer than 50 individual trees in the wild.
“Tree species that have evolved over millions of years, adapting to changing climates, can no longer survive the onslaught of human threats,” said the conservationist Jean-Christophe Vie.
“How short-sighted are we to allow the loss of tree species on which global society is ecologically and economically dependent. If we could only learn to respect trees, undoubtedly many environmental challenges would greatly benefit”, Vie said.
Land clearance for farming, both crops and livestock, and logging are by far the biggest threats to trees, the report said, adding that climate change was also “having a clearly measurable impact”.
The report said deforestation rates remain so high, given the crucial role that trees play, providing habitat for a huge proportion of the world’s animals and plants, slowing climate change by absorbing carbon and providing ingredients for medicines.
Brazil, for instance, is home to large swathes of the Amazon rainforest that is increasingly under threat from massive agricultural expansion and logging. It has the most tree species with over 8,000 but also has the largest number of threatened trees that is around 1,788.
But the highest proportion of threatened species was found to be in tropical parts of Africa, especially in islands like Madagascar and Mauritius where 59 percent and 57 percent of tree species respectively are threatened.
Ecosystem is collapsing
The report also raised concerns that the destruction can cascade across ecosystems affecting communities of trees.
Notable examples include the loss of a million hectares of spruce species in Alaska and some ten million hectares of lodgepole pine in British Columbia.
“Climate change has the potential to become the principal driver of collapse in most, if not all, types of forest ecosystem,” said Adrian Newton, Director of Conservation Ecology at Bournemouth University, in the report.
The impacts of a changing climate and severe weather, listed as a direct threat to more than a thousand species, include shifting habitats, increasing storms and floods, as well as more fires, pests and disease.
The specialists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Botanic Gardens Conservation International have gathered to discuss possible measures to minimise the impact of climate change in Paris.
The strong focus of the summit is restoring forests in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. But experts said it is crucial to make sure the right trees are planted in the right places.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies