Around 30% of the world’s tree species face extinction in the wild.
According to the State of the World’s Trees report, experts say 17,500 tree species are at risk and found that at least 30% of the 60,000 known tree species face extinction.
This is twice the number of threatened mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles combined.
They range from well-known oaks and magnolias to tropical timber trees.
Speaking on the matter, Dr Malin Rivers of the Botanic Gardens Conservation international in Kew, London, said, “We have nearly 60,000 tree species on the planet, and for the first time we now know which of these species are in need of conservation action, what are the greatest threats to them and where they are.”
Sara Oldfield, co-chair of the Global Tree Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said tree species diversity is needed.
“Each tree species has a unique ecological role to play,” she said. “With 30% of the world’s tree species threatened with extinction, we need to scale up conservation action urgently.”
Conservation activist groups are calling for urgent action to protect against threats such as deforestation, logging and climate change.
They believe several steps can be taken, such as preserving existing forests and expanding protected areas, keeping threatened species in botanic gardens or seed banks in the hope they can one day be returned to the wild, providing education to ensure reforestation and tree planting schemes are carried out scientifically and properly, and increasing funding for free conservation.
Over the past 300 years, the global forest area has decreased by about 40%, and 29 countries have lost more than 90% of their forest cover.
Some 142 species have already vanished from the wild, while 442 are on the very edge of extinction, with fewer than 50 individual trees remaining.
Climate change, extreme weather and sea-level rise are growing threats to trees. But the authors say with conservation action, there is hope for the future.
“The report gives us that road map to mobilise the wider conservation community and other key players to ensure that tree conservation is at the forefront of the conservation agenda,” said Dr Rivers.