Thousands Of Tree Species At Risk Of Extinction
New Information Revealed About Danger To Oak, Maple Species
LISLE, IL (November 19, 2007) – Seventy-eight species of oak trees – cornerstones of natural and urban landscapes – are globally threatened with extinction, including 17 species that are under threat in the United States, according to an as-yet unpublished report from international experts. Additionally, 19 maple tree species are either “critically endangered” or “endangered.” Sara Oldfield, Secretary General of London-based Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), revealed the data when addressing conservationists and others at The Morton Arboretum.
“Ecosystems and species are under threat, there’s no doubt about it,” Oldfield said. “Plants are often overlooked in biodiversity debates. Often, animals are discussed, but what about the plants on which they depend?” she asked.
Oaks and maples join magnolias, conifers, ginkgo, and others on the “Red List.” This document, from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), lists species that are threatened with extinction in the wild – even rating the seriousness of each species’ situation with categories such as critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable.
The 2007 Red List documents 5,643 threatened tree species, 1,002 of which are listed as “critically endangered,” Oldfield reported. The figures are just “the tip of the iceberg,” she added.
Reasons for the tree loss include deforestation, climate change, invasive alien species, over-exploitation of species, and pollution, Oldfield said. Additionally, oaks in the U.S. face sudden oak death disease.
The Morton Arboretum and Oldfield opened discussions on how arboreta in the United States can join international efforts to protect trees. BGCI is a lead partner in the Global Trees Campaign, a worldwide initiative to save the most threatened trees species and their habitats.
“Arboreta and botanical gardens in the U.S. have the resources and the capacity to play a much larger role in global plant conservation efforts,” said Dr. Gerard T. Donnelly, Arboretum President and CEO.
Experts are now conducting a survey to find out which endangered species are being grown in arboreta and botanical gardens, and which are not. The goal is to “close the gap,” and conserve as many threatened species as possible, Oldfield said.
Trees provide the framework for nature in many habitats around the world, and the Global Trees Campaign focuses on trees as flagship species for conservation of trees and all of the plants and animals in the ecosystem that depend on them.
“Trees are necessary for the ecological well-being of our planet,” Oldfield said.
Asked what ordinary people can do to stem the loss of tree species, Oldfield advised them to support The Morton Arboretum and other organizations that conserve trees, adopt greener lifestyles, and volunteer in local conservation efforts.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of 4,057 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission – the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or sunset, whichever is earlier, Central Time. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) and 9:30 to 4 p.m. (CST). Visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630-968-0074 to learn more.