The Case for Tree Conservation

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Trees have evolved over the last 360 million years into a wide range of shapes and sizes, adapted to a huge variety of habitats.

Individual species play a myriad of economic, ecological, and cultural roles highly valued by today’s society. We depend on trees in our everyday lives – they provide us with food, timber and medicine. Furthermore, millions of species of plants and animals are intrinsically linked to tree species, depending on them for their survival.

The uniqueness of trees means they often face their own individual challenges, for example:

  • Highly sought-after hardwood species like the Honduran rosewood are selectively logged for their valuable timber
  • Extraction of non timber forest products, like the anti-cancer agent taxol produced by yew trees, often kills the host tree
  • A warming climate threatens montane species like the devil’s hand tree. These species already occupy the upper limits of their natural range. With a warming climate they have no place to go.
Big Tree Rhododendron

Many trees, like this giant rhododendron, require individual conservation attention (Credit: Jackson Xu/FFI).

Much of current conservation action takes a broader, landscape level approach. This is hugely valuable and must continue but GTC also argues that a complementary species focused approach is necessary for the survival of many threatened trees.

Furthermore, unlike mammals and birds, for which all known species have undergone conservation assessments, the status of the majority of the world’s tree species is unknown.

This highlights a vital need for an increased focus on tree species. If we don’t have the necessary information to undertake conservation assessments for the world’s trees how can we effectively conserve them?

The Global Trees Campaign works towards a tailored approach for conserving individual tree species. We provide technical support and advice on implementing species focused conservation and provide a rallying call to encourage others to take action for threatened trees.

Read our expanded argument for tree species conservation here.