September 7, 2021

Local Expert Talks About New Global Report on Trees

A newly released report dubbed, the State of the World’s Trees, illustrates a grim reality for the work of tree conservationists both locally and around the world.

It reveals that one in three of the world’s 60,000 tree species is threatened with extinction.

Why Is the Report Important?

According to Dr. Murphy Westwood, the Morton Arboretum’s vice president of science and conservation, “This report is particularly important because before this, we had no idea the global scale [of] what the state of the world’s trees was. We didn’t know how threatened our trees were around the world.”

The Morton Arboretum had a hand in the report, contributing to a study of tree species in the U.S.

According to the report, one of the biggest threats to trees is people and the trouble posed by habitat loss from agriculture and grazing, followed by over-exploitation from logging and harvesting. Climate change and extreme weather are emerging threats to tree species globally, and many trees risk losing areas of suitable habitat.

How to Effect Change

Westwood says the time to save the world’s trees is now.

“We know that there are at least 17,500 tree species that are threatened with extinction. To put that into perspective, that’s more than twice as many threatened species as there are all threatened mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians combined. … But now that we have this report, it can act as a road map and as a guide for us to inform future conservation efforts to help us prioritize where to put our limited conservation resources to have the highest impact.”

And those efforts are already underway. Two-thirds of the world’s threatened tree species are already conserved in protected areas. And a third are conserved in botanical collections.

“And in fact I’m speaking to you today from one of our conservation groves where we have about a dozen threatened species just right here around me that we are growing and cultivating, here, at the Arboretum as an insurance policy against extinction and also so that we can study them and see how they grow and learn more about their needs and how they might adapt and acclimate in a changing environment. So, there’s a lot of hope to be had.”

Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.

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