The Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), UK, spent over two years compiling the list using data gathered from a network of around 500 member botanical organisations.
The list is intended to be used as a tool for conservationists to be able to identify endangered tree species that are in need of urgent action in order to prevent extinction.
The findings so far
The list revealed some interesting statistics regarding the various tree species and how they’re dispersed around the planet.
Brazil was found to have the greatest number of tree species, with 8,715 varieties growing there. On the other hand, the North American region closest to the Arctic had the fewest number of species, at less than 1400. Polar regions, of course, were void of any trees.
Another statistic of note was that 58 percent of all the tree species were endemic to one country. This fact makes them particularly more vulnerable to threats of deforestation, natural disasters, harsh weather, and other human activities. Heck, even the politics of the ruling majority in the country they are found in could affect the fate of that species!
Around 300 species have been identified as critically endangered with fewer than 50 of each species remaining on the planet. Experts from the various botanic gardens are already taking steps to propagate these plants – collecting seeds to safeguard the few that remain.
How did we get here?
It took a while to reach this point. It wasn’t possible to accurately estimate the number of tree species on the planet until very recently. The data has only now been digitised, according to BGCI secretary general, Paul Smith.
“A lot of the data is not readily available to the public. The digitisation of this data, in effect, is the culmination of centuries of work,” said Smith.
As we mentioned earlier, the primary goal of the list is the conservation of endangered tree species. The study helps conservationists locate tree species from around the world which are in dire need of attention. This is possible thanks to the geo-referencing of tree species this study provides.
“Getting location information, such as which countries do these trees occur in, gives us key information for conservation purposes. That is hugely useful for us in prioritizing which ones we need to do conservation action on and which ones we need to do assessments to find out what their status is,” said Smith.
The BGCI explains that the number of trees on the GlobalTreeSearch list will not remain constant. Around 2,000 plants are registered every year, and they plan to update the list whenever a new tree species is found and named.