2021 in review

Posted on by Sarah Pocock


As we head into a new year of threatened tree conservation, we’re taking a look back at some of the biggest stories and achievements from across GTC and partners around the world in 2021. Read on for a whistle-stop tour of global headlines, local heroes and thousands of new threatened trees!

Hitting the headlines

One third of the world’s trees threatened with extinction

Back in September, BGCI published a landmark report, State of the World’s Trees, which revealed that 30% of all tree species (that’s 17,500 species) are globally threatened with extinction. That’s more than twice the number of threatened mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles combined. GTC published a companion report, Securing a Future for the World’s Threatened Trees – A Global Challenge, calling for global action in response to this finding and setting out tried-and-tested approaches from across the GTC partnership that show we can reverse the trend for the world’s threatened trees.

10 Golden Rules for Tree Planting

“The right tree in the right place” was a widely used phrase in 2021, and in January, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew published a paper laying out this and other guidelines for tree planting around the world. The following month, RBG Kew and BGCI convened three days of discussion and debate around tree planting in the online Reforestation for biodiversity, carbon capture and livelihoods conference, attended by researchers, policy makers and practitioners around the world. The talks are available to catch up now. The resultant Kew Declaration on Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods brought together evidence from the conference to outline key requests to global stakeholders to support effective decision making for reforestation going forwards.

Two thirds of Madagascar’s trees threatened with extinction

Last year saw the Red List of Trees of Madagascar published, providing the first comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of the nation’s trees. Home to 3,118 tree species, and with 93% of those species endemic to the island, Madagascar is a true threatened tree hotspot. The main threats to Madagascar’s trees are logging and wood harvesting, agricultural expansion and an increase in fires.

World’s first Global Biodiversity Standard

At the UN’s COP26, held in Glasgow in November, BGCI launched the Global Biodiversity Standard – the only international certification that recognises and promotes the protection, restoration and enhancement of biodiversity. Find out more about the standard at biodiversitystandard.org.

Celebrating tree champions

Championing the women working with GTC

To celebrate International Women’s Day, caught up with eight women from around the world working tirelessly with the Global Trees Campaign (GTC) to find out more about what motivates them to conserve threatened trees and what they believe is most important to ensure these species persist and thrive in the future. Read their stories again here.

Saint Lucia botanist crowned Disney Conservation Hero

In 2021, Melvin Smith was honoured as a Conservation Hero by the Disney Conservation Fund for his work to protect native plants in Saint Lucia, including the Critically Endangered Juniperus barbadensis var. barbadensis, known locally as the pencil cedar. To date, Melvin has propagated 300 new pencil cedar trees – a huge boost to the tiny wild population of fewer than 100 individuals.

Malagasy baobab champion wins international award

Director of GTC partner in Madagascar, Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka, was crowned as the winner of the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa. The award nomination recognises the sixteen years of dedication that Julie has given to conserving Madagascar’s threatened species, over which time she has been key to the establishment of four protected areas in eastern Madagascar and has led Madagasikara Voakajy – our long-term partner NGO in Madagascar – in improving the long-term prospects for the country’s three threatened baobab species. Read Julie’s story here.

Next generation of threatened trees

Island of Flowers… and dragons!

Brava Island – known locally as the Island of Flowers – is home to the endemic Dracaena draco subsp. caboverdeana, or the Cape Verdean dragon tree. This Critically Endangered tree is suffering from uncontrolled livestock grazing and invasive plant species, which outcompete dragon trees in the wild. Our partner in Cape Verde, Biflores, is providing a helping hand to this iconic tree, and is propagating dragon trees in the project nursery for planting out across suitable areas of the island.

A helping hand for endangered oaks

The Morton Arboretum published a Spanish propagation guide for threatened oaks that can be used to support the propagation and conservation of threatened oaks found in Central American countries, including important species like the Endangered Quercus brandegeei and Critically Endangered Quercus insignis from Mexico.

Threatened trees of Mauritius

Restoration of threatened trees on Mauritius brings unique challenges. With species sometimes down to the last few individuals, natural regeneration may not be an option. Climate change and human impacts may have shifted plant flowering or changed interactions with pollinators or dispersers. There may also be difficulties reproducing, due to low numbers of individual trees spread out across landscapes, limiting the chance of cross-pollination. Or introduced and invasive species might cause problems. GTC has been trying to deal with some of these challenges for a select few of the many threatened species from the island.

We are extremely proud of and grateful to all our partner staff, organisations and initiatives around the world for their work in 2021. Here’s to another exciting year for threatened tree conservation!


Written by Sarah Pocock

Sarah was the Programme Officer for Plant Conservation at Fauna & Flora International, where she supported FFI's teams and partners to conserve threatened plant species.

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