There’s a Global Database of Trees, and It’s Shrinking

There’s a Global Database of Trees, and It’s Shrinking

There are more than 65,000 species of trees on Earth, according to the first database in history to catalog all of the world’s trees. But that number is on the decline, with nearly 10,000 species of trees–about 15 percent– facing extinction.

Working with data from 500 botanical organizations around the world, the Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in London compiled the comprehensive list. The research appears in the recent issue of the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

“BGCI’s main reason for publishing the list is to provide a tool for people trying to conserve rare and threatened tree species,” the organization said in a statement.

And the database appears to do just that; the BGCI says that through the data, researchers were able to see the damage to tree species caused primarily by deforestation and global warming. Specifically, 300 species of trees are considered critically endangered, with 50 or fewer trees of each of the species remaining, the report noted.

Karomia gigas, a tree species found in a remote part of Tanzania, is severely close to extinction, notes BBC. “At the end of 2016, a team of scientists found a single population of just six trees.”

The report identified the highest percentage of tree species as occurring in South America, with more than 8,000 different species found in the lush tropical Amazon rainforest region in Brazil. Colombia came in second with more than 5,700 species.

The region with the lowest number of tree species is the Nearctic region, which includes much of North America.

“Getting location information, such as which countries do these trees occur in, gives us key information for conservation purposes,” BGCI secretary general Dr. Paul Smith told the BBC. “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.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.