Scientists are urging world leaders to act to protect the planet’s endangered trees and prevent further ecological and economic damage from their extinction.
Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) Global Tree Specialist Group, has detailed this “warning to the humanity” in an article published last Wednesday in the journal New Phytologist Foundation Plants, people, planet.
They say billions of people could lose their incomes, jobs and livelihoods if nothing is done to prevent the extinction of tree species.
The document includes a call to action, which the groups say more than 30 organizations around the world have signed up to.
“Last year we released the State of the World’s Trees report, which showed that a third of species are threatened with extinction,” said Malin Rivers, lead author and prioritization lead. conservation at BGCI, in a press release.
“In this new article, we show the far-reaching impact these tree extinctions can have on other species, on ecosystems and for humanity. A strong and urgent response is needed, both to prevent further extinctions of tree species and to restore the damaged ecosystems they form a part of.”
The BGCI, which represents botanic gardens in more than 100 countries, released its State of the World’s Trees report in September 2021, which states, among other things, that 30% of the world’s approximately 58,000 tree species are threatened with extinction.
Although it varies by region, the authors say the main threats to the trees are habitat loss due to the spread of agriculture, logging, ranching, and urban development. Other threats include fire regimes, energy production and mining, and invasive species, with climate change also expected to intensify in the future and exacerbate these issues.
The organization says half of all known animal and plant species on Earth depend on trees for their habitat, with forests providing half of the world’s carbon storage and three-quarters of its accessible fresh water.
The authors of the paper warn that “large-scale extinctions of tree species will lead to major biodiversity losses in other species groups and dramatically alter carbon, water and nutrient cycling. in global ecosystems.
More than 100 tree species are already extinct in the wild, they say, with billions of trees destroyed each year.
Economically, the authors say forests contribute about US$1.3 trillion globally, largely from timber, but also in the form of fruits, nuts and medicines.
The paper says the loss of a single tree species can “substantially” alter an ecosystem, creating a domino effect or “cascades of extinction”.
The IUCN publishes a “Red List” of threatened species, which the groups say includes more tree species than mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians combined.
In their article, the authors propose seven actions to prevent the widespread extinction of tree species on the planet.
These include conserving and restoring natural tree populations, addressing direct threats such as illegal logging, and mandating tree conservation in local and international policies and legislation.
“Our message to humanity is to remember how trees enrich and sustain our lives, as they have throughout human history. Yet we must recognize that these values are in jeopardy unless we take not consider the impacts of our actions and let us not change our collective behavior in relation to trees,” Adrian Newton, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group, said in the press release.
“While there is still much to learn about the biology, ecology and wonders of trees, we know how to conserve them. We also know that now is the time to act.”