The vast and contrasting landscapes of Central Asia are host to over 500 species of woody plants, including wild apples, pears, pistachios and walnuts. As threats to the region’s forests increase, the Red List of Trees of Central Asia, published by the Global Trees Campaign, has identified the 44 species most at risk.
The latest Red List published by the Global Trees Campaign, the Red List of Trees of Central Asia, has evaluated 96 of the region’s tree species, identifying 44 as globally threatened with extinction. The principal threats to these trees are over-exploitation, desertification, pests and diseases, overgrazing and fire.
The threatened species include many found in the unique and highly threatened fruit and nut forests – a staggering 90% of which has been lost in the last 50 years. These rich and diverse forests host a range of walnut, apple, pear, almond and pistachio species, and are considered to be one of the main centres of origin of cultivated fruit plants. These plants display exceptionally high genetic diversity, which could prove vital in the development of new disease-resistant or climate-tolerant fruit varieties.
It is hoped that the Red List assessment will form a basis for tree conservation in region. A new collaborative project is being launched in Kyrgyzstan this year, led by Prof. Adrian Newton of Bournemouth University, UK (a co-author of The Red List of Trees in Central Asia) and involving FFI, BGCI and several institutions in Kyrgyzstan. With funding from the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative, the project will conduct research on threatened trees, provide training to Kyrgyz scientists and involve local communities in forest use planning.