[Archive: 29 August 1998]


Trees on the verge
of mass extinction

By Oliver Tickell

some 8750 tree species--one-tenth of the 80 000 to 100 000 known to science--are at risk of extinction, a new study has found. Only 12 per cent of those threatened grow in protected areas.

The report, compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), shows that well over half the threats to tree species arise from loss of habitat, due to agriculture or human settlement. Logging, poor forest management and alien plants that overwhelm native vegetation are also factors.

Seventy-seven tree species are already believed to have become extinct over the past century, and a further seven are down to single figures. For example, just one specimen of China's Carpinus putoensis, a type of hornbeam, survives after extensive deforestation on the Zhoushan Archipelago. A number of commercial timber species are also critically endangered, including Dipterocarpus lowii and Shorea blumetensis from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Steve Howard, head of the Global Forest Initiative at the Worldwide Fund for Nature, says that governments should increase protection for forests and promote timber certification schemes.

On a positive note, the IUCN and WCMC, which released the report at the second meeting of the UN Intergovernmental Forum on Forests in Geneva this week, point out that 22 countries have already made a pledge to protect a minimum of 10 per cent of their forests by the year 2000

related site:

  • World Conservation Monitoring Centre - Trees

    From New Scientist, 29 August 1998


    © Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 2001