Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Global Trees Campaign?

A: The Global Trees Campaign exists to save the world’s threatened tree species and their habitats through conservation action, capacity development and by influencing and inspiring action from other groups to conserve threatened trees.

Q: Who is the Global Trees Campaign?

A:  The Global Trees Campaign is a partnership between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).  We work in collaboration a with a large network of project partners based across the globe, often where the needs for tree conservation are greatest.

Q: Why trees?

A: Trees have a myriad of different economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual roles valued by today’s society.  However trees have also been overlooked when it comes to conservation action and are a highly threatened group of species – read more about our case for tree conservation.

Q: What is a threatened tree?

A: A threatened tree is a tree species (or subspecies or variety) that is threatened with extinction, as opposed to an individual tree subject to threat.

Q: How do you determine whether a tree is threatened?

A: The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria are widely recognized as the most authoritative mechanism for determining whether a species is globally threatened (i.e. threatened across its whole range). If a species meets a set threshold value for one or more criteria, it is classified as threatened. The latest version of the IUCN Red List categories and criteria is version 3.1 (2001). Assessments carried out before 2001 were undertaken using previous versions of the categories and criteria and these assessments need updating.

A tree may also be classified as threatened within a particular country or region, rather than across its whole range. The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria can be adapted to perform national or regional assessments, and various national Red Lists also exist.

The Global Trees Campaign focuses the majority of its work on globally threatened tree species, but in some cases projects may focus on locally threatened species. 

Q. How many threat categories are there?

A: The IUCN Red List provides internationally agreed Categories and Criteria for conservation assessments of taxa. The use of the IUCN Categories and Criteria ensures standardisation and allows comparison not only within trees but also with other groups of plants and animals.

The Categories are listed below, with threatened Categories highlighted in bold.

  • Extinct (EX)
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Data Deficient (DD)
  • Not Evaluated (NE)

For more information please visit the Red Listing page of this site, or the IUCN Red List website.

Q. How many threatened trees are there?

A: It is estimated that over 9,600 tree taxa are globally threatened with extinction (CR, EN or VU). This includes over 1,850 trees currently assessed as Critically Endangered.

These figures are based on results from:

  • The World List of Threatened Trees (Oldfield, et al., 1998) (results from this publication have been incorporated onto the IUCN Red List)
  • Additional assessments carried out since 1998 that were subsequently published by the IUCN Red List website
  • Additional assessments carried out since 1998 that have not yet been published on the IUCN Red List website.

In an article reviewing progress in Red Listing the world’s tree species, Newton and Oldfield (2008) estimate that at least an additional 2,500 tree taxa have been evaluated since 1998, but only a fraction of these have been published on the IUCN Red List. See, for example, our resources section for taxonomically focused Red Lists for QuercusRhododendronAcer, and Magnoliaceae, not all of which have been incorporated into the IUCN Red List.

There are many tree taxa that have not yet been assessed against the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. The IUCN / SSC Global Trees Specialist Group (GTSG) aims to carry out a Global Conservation Assessment of all trees by 2020.

Q: What are the main threats to trees?

A: Habitat destruction and commercial logging are the main threats to tree species around the world. Other notable threats include over extraction and unsustainable harvesting of for Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), wood fuel collection, climate change, invasive species and emerging diseases.

Q: How are Global Trees Campaign projects selected for support?

A:  The Global Trees Campaign is working to conserve threatened tree species, particularly in countries where the highest number of threatened trees exist, or where our partner organisations identify opportunities for high impact conservation projects. We work with our partner organisations from project concept and inception to implementation. The GTC welcomes suggestions from the scientific community for future conservation work. Please contact us.

Q: If we protect forests, won’t that automatically protect their rare tree species?

A: Protecting large areas of forest isn’t enough. Some trees occur in such small numbers that they can easily be wiped out by accident unless they are mapped and specifically protected. Other rare trees grow outside forest habitats and have unique conservation requirements.

Q: When money and resources for conservation are scarce, is it really worth conserving endemic trees that are only a minor part of the world’s flora?

A: Endemics have disproportionate importance wherever they occur, both for local human populations and wildlife. Areas with a high level of endemic tree species are often ‘hotspots’ of species diversity. If an endemic tree is lost, all the species that depend on it – including people – will suffer.

Q: Why not allow logging companies to fell natural forests, provided they leave rare species intact?

A: Forests are more than the sum of their parts. Many tropical trees depend on specialist pollinators, such as bats and birds, which disappear when forests are cleared. Brazil nut trees left standing when a forest is felled produce poor seed crops due to pollination failure. Isolated mature trees are easily toppled by wind when they lose shelter from surrounding forest.

Q. What is ex situ conservation, why is it needed and is it enough to save threatened tree species from extinction?

A: Ex situ conservation involves protecting a species outside of its natural habitat, for example in a botanic garden collection, germplasm store or seed bank.

Although in situ conservation is seen as the paradigm method for species conservation, it is not always possible due to loss of suitable habitat. As well as providing additional or back-up security, ex situ conservation can also support in situ conservation by providing for research and cultivation of a supply of material for reintroduction and restoration programmes to replenish wild populations.

Such an integrated conservation approach is recommended as the ideal solution for conservation of threatened tree species, see ‘Integrated conservation of tree species by botanic gardens: A reference manual (Oldfield and Newton, 2012).

Ex situ collections are most valuable when they hold a large number of individuals representing a genetically viable sample of the wild population. Due to the large size of individual trees, maintenance of a large number of individuals ex situ is not always possible.

Therefore, taking advantage of seed storage techniques which require less space is therefore advisable where possible. However, seed storage is easier said than done! While seed banking works well with many temperate plants and annual crops, seeds from many tropical trees tend to be short-lived and quickly die under low-temperature, low-moisture conditions and therefore cannot be dried and stored in a seed bank. These seeds are recalcitrant.

Research and experiments must be undertaken to develop protocols for seed storage, or find alternative methods of genetic preservation, such as germplasm storage through cryopreservation, but this often comes at a high cost. Read more on these issues in our project: Developing a strategy for the ex situ conservation of exceptional species.

Q. What relevant policy guides Global Trees Campaign work?

A: The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was established under the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992. The GSPC outlines 16 targets for plant conservation and is the leading global policy for the conservation of plant diversity, including trees.

All targets are relevant to GTC work, in particular:

Target 2: An assessment of the conservation status of all known plant species, as far as possible, to guide conservation action by 2020 – The GTC is supporting tree Red Listing through the Global Tree Specialist Group that aims to carry out a global assessment of the world’s tree species by 2020.

Target 7: At least 75 % of known threatened plant species conserved in situ – See the Projects section for examples of GTC projects supporting in situ conservation of threatened tree species.

Target 8: At least 75% of threatened plant species in ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and at least 20 per cent available for recovery and restoration programmes­­ – See the Projects section for examples of GTC projects supporting ex situ conservation of threatened tree species, and the taxonomically focused ex situ surveys available in the Resources section.

Q. What is the Global Trees Specialist Group?

A: The IUCN / SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (GTSG) is a global network of experts who, working in their own regions and institutions, all contribute to the conservation of globally threatened trees, particularly by undertaking tree Red Listing to determine and highlight the threatened status of many of the world’s tree species.