Over Half of the World's Tree Species Assessed on the IUCN Red List

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Today in the first IUCN Red List Update of 2021 3,671 conservation assessments for trees were published. This brings the total number of trees on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to over 32,000. This is three times as many trees on the IUCN Red List than in 2015 when the Global Tree Assessment was established. This also means that over half of the world’s tree species now have a global assessment on the IUCN Red List.

This update, as always, includes a diverse array of tree species from many different regions and many different tree families and genera. Trees from Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Japan, Malaysia (Sabah), Mexico, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Venezuela and elsewhere were all assessed by in country partners as part of the Global Tree Assessments. Importantly, we have now completed assessments for all tree species in Northern, West and Central Asia.

Over the last four years, BGCI have been working in partnership with the IUCN Red List and Toyota Biodiversity fund to produce conservation assessments for commercial timber species. We are now in the last month of this project, and by the end 1,250 assessments for timber trees will have been assessed for their extinction risk.

In the last year we have focused on producing assessments for tree species listed on CITES which have previously been unassessed or are in need of an up to date assessment. In the latest IUCN Update three Central African timber species from the genus Guibourtia (G. demeusei, G. pellegriniana and G. tessmannii) are published on the IUCN Red List for the first time. These trees were listed on CITES appendix II in 2017 and they are assessed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered (G. pellegriniana and G. tessmannii) and Near Threatened (G. demeusei). All three species produce a desirable rosewood timber commonly traded under the name Kévazingo or Bubinga. Guibourtia pellegrinana and G. tessmannii are distinct species but morphologically very similar and considered to produce a higher quality timber than G. demeusei. The two species are less common and widespread than G. demeusei in the wild and are suspected to experience a population decline of at least 50% within the last century (meeting the threshold for Endangered A2c). The rate of legal and illegal harvest of G. pellegriniana and G. tessmannii has increased since the mid 1980’s being driven by the high global demand for rosewood timber. This incessant demand funds the illegal harvest and trade of these three Guibourtia species. Guibourtia are relevantly recent victims of this trade, and their harvest has risen as a result of declining global abundance and restriction of trade of other species of rosewood producing trees (such as species of Dalbergia and Pterocarpus). Although not as threatened as the other two species of Guibourtia the species is now being more frequently harvested and occurring in markets and in international trade in larger volumes and consequently is assessed as Near Threatened. Conservation efforts need to be put in place now to prevent G. demeusei from facing the same fate as G. pellegriniana and G. tessmannii and becoming more threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.

These Guibourtia species are not the only trees entering the Red List for the first time in a threatened category. BGCI is beginning to assess recently described, new to science species which are very often threatened before they are given a name. Also, as we assess more and more endemic trees as part of the Global Tree Assessment, the number of trees globally threatened with extinction increases. Currently, there are 12,228 threatened tree species on the IUCN Red List and combining this data with assessments on ThreatSearch, it is estimated that over 30% of tree species are threatened at some level.

In the coming year BGCI and its network of GTA partners will continue to assess the extinction risk to global tree species. We will also be publishing a report on the results of the Global Tree Assessment so far. Follow the link below to stay in the loop and be the first to find out about the GTA Report.

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