If you have ever wondered how many species of trees planet Earth holds, we can now reveal to you that the magic number currently known to science is 60,065.
The world’s largest global study on tree species took two years to complete and was compiled by the Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), with help from some 500 member organizations.
The data collected has been compiled into an online database – GlobalTreeSearch – that the researchers hope can be used as a tool to identify rare and threatened species. Their study is published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.
The database is searchable by genus and species, but also by country as one of the fascinating statistics to come out of this study is that 58 percent of all tree species are single country endemics, which means that although this makes them easier to search for, unfortunately they will also be more vulnerable to potential threats. And these days there are plenty of threats: deforestation, illegal logging, extreme weather, global warming, forest fires, and disease, to name a few.
Around 300 species were identified as critically endangered, meaning they had 50 or fewer trees left growing in the wild.
The study also revealed that Brazil alone accounts for 8,715 species, making it the nation with the largest variety of trees, followed by Colombia and then Indonesia. They also found that the countries with the most endemic species had the widest variety, which included Australia and China.
The polar regions obviously have no trees, but the area with the least amount of species was the part of North America closest to the Arctic, with less than 1,400. Isolated island nations like Madagascar and Papua New Guinea had the greatest rate of speciation. You can follow the BGCI on Twitter for more snippets on their findings.
The BGCI compiled the database to create the most comprehensive list of tree species and for its country-level distributions to be used as the basis for its Global Tree Assessment, a conservation assessment of all the world’s trees, that it – in partnership with the IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group – is planning to complete by 2020.
And if you are wondering what makes a tree a tree...