Scientists issue a ‘warning to humanity’ as a third of the world’s tree species are threatened with extinction

A year after warning that nearly a third of the world’s tree species are at risk of extinction, scientists have issued an urgent “warning to humanity” outlining how billions of people will be affected by the loss. The document comes a few months before the 2022 Kunming Biodiversity Conference.

Scientists have warned that the extinction of tree species will lead to the loss of many other plants and animals and drastically change global ecosystems. They pointed out that trees are of exceptional ecological importance, playing a major functional role in global ecosystems, while supporting many other plants, animals and fungi.

The article published in the New Phytologist Foundation’s Plants People Planet states that it aims to raise awareness of the tree extinction crisis, which is a major environmental issue that requires urgent global attention.

“Evidence suggests that a third of the world’s tree species are currently threatened with extinction, representing a major ecological crisis. We then examine the potential implications of tree extinctions, in terms of the functioning of the biosphere and of impacts on human well-being,” the scientists said in the journal.

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Trees not only provide shelter for humans and animals, they are also responsible for cycling carbon, water and nutrients in the world’s ecosystems and, with the disappearance of most plant species, the ecological balance of the planet will be affected. It should be mentioned that more than 100 species of trees are already extinct in the wild, and with billions of trees destroyed every year, a third of species are threatened with extinction.

“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 of which they are a part,” Malin Rivers, lead author of the paper and head of conservation prioritization at BGCI, said in a statement.

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Most of these threatened species are home to 75% of the world’s bird species, 68% of the world’s mammal species and over 10 million species of invertebrates. The paper also highlights how tree extinction will undermine the livelihoods of billions of people around the world who currently depend on trees and the benefits they provide.


Scientists have outlined a series of actions to take to save the species from extinction, including:

* Recognize the importance of tree species
* Conserve and restore natural stands of trees
* Address direct threats to tree species
* Prioritize conservation actions for threatened tree species
* Strengthen the role of trees in sustainable development
* Strengthen the role of trees in environmental and climate policy

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“Trees are essential to global ecosystems and the global economy. We treat them as an inexhaustible natural resource, but we urgently need to improve tree management for wood supply and sustainably manage tree diversity for the benefit of all communities,” said Sara Oldfield, Co-Chair of the Global Tree Specialist Group.

All eyes are now on the 2022 Kunming Biodiversity Conference, where world leaders are expected to discuss biodiversity decline, highlight the urgent need for tree species conservation and identify key priority actions as change climate worsens.

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