Trees Risking Extinction

At this point, climate change is a certainty.  And one of the biggest causes is the burning of fossil fuels. While the transition away from fossil fuels is under way, it takes time. And one of the best ways to offset the climate change problem is by planting more trees.  Here’s a research report that’s almost two years old and cites the risks associated with tree loss – especially with those trees we use most.  While it’s one of those “major global problems,” we, as individuals, can actually do a lot to restore Earth’s safety and beauty. Comments afterwards.

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Up to half of world’s wild tree species

could be at risk of extinction


Global study calls for urgent action to prevent ecosystem

collapse, with farming the biggest cause of die-off


Jonathan Watts


The Guardian

Tue 31 Aug 2021


Between a third and half of the world’s wild tree species are threatened with extinction, posing a risk of wider ecosystem collapse, the most comprehensive global stock-take to date warns.

Forest clearance for farming is by far the biggest cause of the die-off, according to the State of the World’s Trees report, which was released on Wednesday along with a call for urgent action to reverse the decline.

The five-year, international study found 17,510 species of trees are threatened, which is twice the number of threatened mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles combined.

This was 29.9% of the 58,497 known species of trees in the world. But the proportion at risk is likely to be higher as a further 7.1% were deemed “possibly threatened” and 21.6% were insufficiently evaluated.

Only 41.5% were confirmed as safe.

The problem was evident across the globe. Brazil – home to the planet’s most diverse forest, the Amazon – had the most (1,788) threatened tree species, including big-leaf mahogany, rosewood and eugenia. In China, the world’s sixth most biodiverse nation, magnolia, camellia and maple were among the 890 species at risk.

Tropical island states, notably Madagascar, are disproportionately affected, particularly ebony and rosewood, but even in Europe – which is relatively poor in terms of natural diversity – there has been an alarming decline in numbers of whitebeams and rowan. In North America, pests and diseases are causing severe losses of ash populations.

Botanists describe trees as “the backbone of the natural ecosystem”.

Although only 0.2% of species have become extinct so far, the authors say an accelerating decline could have dire knock-on effects. Humans are directly affected by the loss of carbon sequestration, oxygen production, timber for construction, fuel for fires, ingredients for medicine and food, buffers from storms, and the wellbeing that comes from shade and beauty. Arguably more important are the indirect impacts on natural life-support systems. In many parts of the world, trees are the pillars of a healthy ecosystem. Without them, other plants, insects, birds and mammals struggle to survive.

The report’s lead author, Malin Rivers, the head of conservation prioritisation at Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), said …


“Trees are essential … it’s like a Jenga

tower. Pull the wrong one out and the

ecosystem falls apart. When I look at

these numbers, I feel we need to act now.”


The report identifies the main threats to trees. Farming (crops 29% and livestock 14%) takes top place, followed by logging (27%), housing and other commercial development (13%), fire (13%), mining (9%), pulp plantations (6%) and invasive species (3%). Climate change (4%) is bottom of the list, though this does not include the pressure it adds on fire and agriculture.

Gerard T Donnelly, the president of the Morton Arboretum in Illinois, US, hoped policymakers would use the groundbreaking study as a conservation tool:


This report makes clear that the

world’s trees are in danger. It was

developed through years of vigorous

research and collaboration among

the world’s leading tree conservation

organisations and will guide further

scientifically informed action to

prevent tree extinctions.”


BGCI has recommended an expansion of protected area coverage for threatened species, planting campaigns that focus on the highest-risk populations, closer global collaboration, more funding for conservation efforts, and greater efforts to back up species in botanic gardens and seed banks.

The group has launched the GlobalTree Portal, an online database, tracking conservation efforts at the species, country and global level. Rivers said …


“For the first time we know which

species are threatened, where they

are and how they are threatened

so we can make better-informed

conservation decisions. These

species are not extinct yet. There

is still hope. There are still ways

to get them back from the brink.”


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I recently began producing a series of videos aimed at providing specific “tips” for helping people transition to “Sustainable Living” – which I define as living 100% with what nature provides and enjoying an even better quality-of-life experience. On our site, just click under the “Videos” heading and, in the right-hand column, scroll down to “Tips Video #6” … 60 seconds of specifics for increasing beauty as you cut both costs and maintenance.  Trees are one aspect.  Adding D’s comments …


“Wherever you can, plant trees.  Try to find trees that will do well in your area; usually native trees do better.  Go to a good nursery, speak to someone who’s loves and is knowledgeable about trees; (Stuart would call the person a “tree guru”).  Listen well.  Choose one or more that feel right to you, for the area in which you want to plant it and for the aesthetic look you want.  Then, enjoy watching your tree grow; enjoy the beauty and the shade it provides.”

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