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Deforestation, global warming … trees are also threatened with extinction

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While the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) unveiled its new list of threatened species on Saturday in Marseille, a report released this week reveals that a third of tree species could disappear across the country. world.

Animals are not the only living things to suffer from human activity and rising temperatures: a third of tree species are threatened with extinction, warns in a study published Wednesday, September 1, experts from Botanical Gardens and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In total, more than 500 scientists worked on this report for 5 years. Their finding is clear: of the 58,497 tree species studied, 17,510 are threatened with extinction, or 30%, and at least 142 are recorded as extinct. Even common trees, such as magnolias, are among the most endangered, oaks, maples and ebony not being spared.

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“Many species are on the verge of extinction, some still counting only one living individual”, warns Jean-Christophe Vié, director general of the Franklinia foundation based in Switzerland, in the presentation of the report.

Diseases, logging, deforestation to make way for crops or livestock are the greatest threats to trees.

Amazonia and tropical forests in danger

The country most affected by this mass extinction, Brazil, which is home to a large part of the Amazon rainforest. It has nearly 1,800 endangered species out of the 9,000 present on its territory, a consequence of intensive agriculture.

Fires also play a role in this ecological disaster. Each year, the outbreaks multiply during the dry season from August to November, when farmers cut down trees and then burn them on the spot to clear cultivable land.

Last month, the space agency INPE recorded 28,060 fires in the Amazon, a figure down 4.3% from August 2020, but well above the average of 18,000 outbreaks in the decade leading up to the Jair Bolsonaro came to power.

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Under the mandate of the far-right president, the Brazilian part of the Amazon lost some 10,000 km2 of forest per year, the area of ​​a country like Lebanon, against 6,500 km2 per year in the previous decade.

But the highest proportion of threatened species are found in tropical regions of Africa, in particular in Madagascar and Mauritius where respectively 59% and 57% of species are endangered.

In Madagascar, the cultural importance of the Grandidier baobab, which can live around 2,000 years, has not protected it from fires or overexploitation for its bark and fruits.

Pillars of biodiversity

According to the report, entire forest ecosystems can collapse when subjected to multiple threats and habitat fragmentation can “lead to abrupt ecological change”.

“Climate change has the potential to become the leading cause of collapse in most, if not all, forest ecosystems,” says Adrian Newton of Bournemouth University.

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Scientists warn that the disappearance of tree species would also lead to the disappearance of animal species. As recalled in the latest report from the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, on the state of the world’s forests published in 2020, “forest ecosystems are home to most of the terrestrial biodiversity of the planet, and primary forests in particular, are places where species that exist only in these ecosystems are concentrated ”.

“Tree species that have evolved over millions of years, adapting to climate change, cannot survive the avalanche of human threats,” warns Jean-Christophe Vié.

To prevent the disappearance of certain species, scientists call on states to take up their work to preserve existing forest areas, expand protected areas, increase funding for forest conservation or to create seed banks of endangered species intended to be reintroduced into the wild.

With AFP

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