Autumn favourites at risk of extinction in the wild
There is no more spectacular sight in the autumn months than the flaming colours of the maple tree; leaves glowing in uniquely vivid shades of saffron, auburn and raspberry. Loved by gardeners for their ease of cultivation – and by many of us for the taste of maple syrup on pancakes – these unique trees are increasingly under threat in the wild.
Acer pictum ssp. taishakuense, VU
Acer pycnanthum, VU
Acer triflorum, DD
A recent study led by BGCI has shown that nearly a third of all maple species are under threat of extinction in their native habitats. Of the 191 maple species assessed, 54 are considered at risk today, and a further 29 species are likely to become threatened in the near future.
As well as listing the conservation status of all known maple species, the report also provides for the first time, maps of the distribution of the threatened species, many of which are native to China.
“Urgent action is required to conserve the most threatened species, in particular the seven species that we know are reduced to just a handful of individual trees in the wild” said Sara Oldfield, Secretary General of BGCI and Chair of the Global Trees Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“The good news is that while many species are threatened in the wild, some of these species are common in cultivation. We are now aiming to use the knowledge, expertise and resources of gardens and arboreta that have collections of maples, such as the National Arboretum at Westonbirt, to address conservation problems on the ground.”
The Red List of Maples has been produced by BGCI in the framework of the Global Trees Campaign – a joint initiative between BGCI and Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The Global Trees Campaign has been adopted by Rotary International Britain and Ireland (RIBI) as a cause it will support for the coming year.
BGCI, through the Global Trees Campaign, has carried out a detailed assessment of maples in botanic gardens and arboreta world wide in order to prioritise conservation efforts. This ex situ survey revealed that only 16 of the 26 most threatened (CR and EN) maples are found in collections around the world. Restoring wild populations using species propagated by botanic gardens is an urgent priority.