More than half of all tree species could face extinction

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Dear PIC Follower,

An extensive new evaluation of the conservation status of all trees shows that 30-60% of species are at risk of extinction, mainly due to habitat destruction for agriculture.

The State of the World’s Trees report compiles the extinction risk of all 58,497 known tree species. Of these,

  • at least 142 species have already been declared extinct in the wild,
  • almost a third of species have been assessed as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species,
  • a further 30% are likely threatened, but the available data is insufficient for a definite classification.

The global forest area has decreased by about 40% and 29 countries have lost more than 90% of their original forest cover in the last 300 years due mainly to forest clearance for farming, which is the main threat to almost half of all species – unsurprising considering half of all habitable land is already used for agriculture, with 77% of this dedicated to raising livestock.

Conversion of natural habitat to agriculture to keep up with our growing population and overconsumption of animal products is the most important driver of biodiversity loss globally, which is why an increasing number of scientific reports are calling for “transformative change” to our food systems.

Other key threats to tree species are direct exploitation for timber (logging), followed by development of human infrastructure, forest fires, energy production and mining, conversion of forests to wood pulp plantations, invasive species, and climate change impacts (not including fires).

The report points out the vital ecosystem services provided by trees: Half of the world’s terrestrial carbon stocks are locked in forests, and more than three-quarters of the world’s accessible freshwater comes from forested catchment areas. In addition, forests are fundamental to biodiversity, being home to more than three-quarters of the world’s land-dwelling species.

The authors call for urgent action to reverse the decline of the world’s trees, recommending the inclusion of effective tree conservation measures in the new global framework for biodiversity, as well as in forthcoming climate plans. They point out that, currently, only 15% of all land area has formal protection status, which must be significantly increased to preserve remaining forests.

Unfortunately, the report does not acknowledge the need to end human population growth through the advancement of positive, empowering solutions such as providing safe access to family planning services to those who wish to use them and ensuring girls can stay in school. This is disheartening, to say the least, when one considers that if we stay on our current growth trajectory towards 11 billion people by the end of the century, reducing the threats to trees and setting aside protected areas will become increasingly difficult.

What can you, as a supporter of PIC and a concerned global citizen, do about overpopulation?

PIC’s UK sister organization, Population Matters, is calling on governments to include population as an issue in the UN’s Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework; they are also asking the leaders of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change conference, COP26, to empower women and girls through education and reproductive health as an empowering population solution. Please sign these petitions using the links above to make your voice heard!

Please also consider forwarding this email to your local, provincial and federal representatives so they know you are concerned about the impact of human population growth. It’s critical to keep raising awareness in our communities and to speak up so that our political leaders understand that present circumstances demand an economy centred around de-growth, as our planet is so clearly demonstrating in myriad ways.

We here at PIC thank you for continuing to support our cause, which enables us to do the work we do!

Get involved

Madeline Weld, Ph.D.

President, Population Institute Canada
Tel: (613) 833-3668
Email: [email protected]