Almost 30% of tree species in the wild are now at risk of extinction, with a wide range of factors responsible for their decline, according to analysis released Wednesday.
Published by Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the State of the World’s Trees report found that out of the planet’s 58,497 recorded tree species, 17,510 — or 29.9% — were threatened.
In addition, 4,099 are regarded as being “possibly threatened” while at least 142 species are now extinct in the wild, according to the report.
The figure of 29.9% does not assume that “data deficient” species, or those that scientists don’t have enough information on, are threatened. If all species in this category were deemed to be threatened, the percentage under threat of extinction would jump to 51.3%.
“Assuming that Data Deficient species are equally likely to be threatened as all other tree species, we can estimate that 38.1% of tree species are classified as threatened,” the report said. Conversely, 41.5% of species are not seen as being under threat.
“This report is a wake up call to everyone around the world that trees need help,” BGCI Secretary General Paul Smith said in a statement.
Among the most at-risk trees are species including magnolias and dipterocarps – which are commonly found in Southeast Asian rainforests. Oak trees, maple trees and ebonies also face threats, the report said.
Trees help support the natural ecosystem and are considered vital for combating global warming and climate change. The extinction of a single tree species could prompt the loss of many others.
“Every tree species matters — to the millions of other species that depend on trees, and to people all over the world,” Smith added.
Thousands of varieties of trees in the world’s top six countries for tree-species diversity are at risk of extinction the report found. The greatest single number is in Brazil, where 1,788 species are at risk.
The other five countries are Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Colombia and Venezuela.
The top three threats facing tree species are crop production, timber logging and livestock farming, the report said, while climate change and extreme weather are emerging threats.
At least 180 tree species are directly threatened by rising seas and severe weather, the report said, especially island species such as magnolias in the Caribbean.
While the BGCI report makes for sobering reading, the organization also listed a number of actions that could be taken to “protect and bring back threatened species.”
These include: conserving threatened species in seed bank and botanic garden collections; increasing the availability of corporate and government funding for tree species under threat; the expansion of schemes focused on tree planting; and extending “protected area coverage for threatened tree species that are currently not well represented in protected areas.”