Being the only international programme conserving threatened tree species in the wild, is as much a challenge, as a ‘Unique Selling Point’ (USP) for GTC. In this blog, Victoria Price explores how GTC is working to overcome this by helping others to champion the cause, and save threatened tree species in the wild.
Of the 60,000 trees known to exist, over 9,600 are threatened with extinction. This means 9,600 species across the globe would benefit from conservation management but, unlike their animal counter-parts, species-specific work on trees is rarely seen as a priority for conservation researchers or practitioners.
The Global Trees Campaign’s (USP) is that we are the only international programme dedicated to saving the world’s threatened tree species in the wild, but our distinguishing feature is also our greatest challenge. Put simply, not enough people work on tree species conservation but the need for the work has never been more pressing.
There is a clear need to mainstream tree conservation into the wider conservation agenda; we should know just as much about rosewood trade as the ivory trade, and have just as many people saving threatened fir trees as there are saving pandas.
This ‘mobilisation’ of other groups has become a key component of what the GTC does, and a large part of our work.
From the grassroots, up
Much of the reticence to work on trees is often based on the perceived lack of skills, resources and therefore confidence to undertake threatened tree species projects. Through our field projects GTC has a strong track record of investing in people; we actively promote skills and provide training to catalyse tree species conservation action.
For example, in Central Asia, we have been providing training to foresters to aid more effective tree species identification, monitoring and seed collection focused on threatened fruit trees.
However, we are also aware of the need for a community of tree conservation leaders, working independently of GTC’s field projects, to act as leading voices and shining examples for other future potential tree conservationists, like you.
GTC wants to support such people, as well as promising conservation professionals, who can promote the mainstreaming of threatened tree species conservation within other groups and organisations, from the grassroots, up.
Supporting students; investing in research
In 2016, in collaboration with the Conservation Leadership Programme, GTC launched a new initiative to support students interested in threatened tree species research.
We contributed a small grant to support fieldwork costs and also connected students to the Conservation Leadership Programme’s alumni network. The network promotes knowledge and experience sharing by connecting 2,500 conservation leaders based in approximately 100 countries.
In our first year we funded Daniela Requena Suarez’s fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon; her research focused on shihuahuaco trees (Dipteryx spp.), including the Vulnerable Dipteryx charapilla. This group has very little information available about their conservation status and even threats to the red-listed D. charapilla are largely unknown.
During her research into traditional uses of shihuahuaco trees and their seeds, Daniela uncovered a hitherto unknown seed collecting industry, which presents new challenges and opportunities for future conservation of shihuahuaco trees.
Since then, Daniela has undertaken an internship with GTC where she assisted with data collection for GlobalTreesSearch (see below) and Red Listing of European trees. Daniela has gone on to apply this knowledge and red list three of her study species (Dipteryx spp.), information which was sorely needed. She next plans to start a PhD (focusing on forests and climate change) this summer.
In 2017, GTC supported three further students to undertake Masters level research answering questions pertinent to threatened tree species conservation. Updates from all of these studies in Kyrgyzstan and Brazil will be reported on the GTC website later this year.
Future leaders; supporting conservation work
In 2017, GTC built upon its work with young conservationists by sponsoring a small grant for a tree species conservation project. Each year the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) supports talented young teams of conservation biologists, by funding conservation projects which alleviate threats to threatened species. As part of the award, CLP also runs a project management and leadership course which provides grantees with the skills and knowledge to carry out effective projects.
Due to GTC support in 2017, CLP were able to ring-fence a specific grant for a threatened tree species project. As a result, CLP reported an almost three-fold increase in the number of plant project proposals from young teams, compared to last year. What’s more, in 2017 CLP supported a record of three tree species CLP awards, based in Brazil, Mexico and Oman.
The award sponsored by GTC specifically supported a team researching Arabian dragon trees (Dracaena serrulata) in southern Oman, marking the first time that CLP has supported the country. Oman’s Dhofar Mountains host 70% of the global population of this Endangered species.
The team plans to conduct surveys into the population size and dynamics, and also investigate threats to this important population. The results will be used to update the IUCN Red List assessment (which was written in 1998) and to produce a species action plan.
Project leader, Ghudaina Al Issai said the award “means a lot to the team, and we appreciate the opportunity CLP is giving us to do some conservation work in Arabia that will hopefully make a change in our region”.
Our threatened trees need you!
The impressive work carried out by GTC-funded individuals has shown how a relatively small investment can have a wider role in guiding action for threatened tree species. However, there are many other tree species all around the world still in need of help.
Countries such as China, Mexico, Madagascar and Indonesia all have a remarkably high diversity of tree species, but more work is needed on the ground to help threatened tree species in need of attention.
These countries are just a few examples of where more research effort and conservation action is required as a matter of urgency. However, most countries have at least one threatened tree species in need of conservation attention and this could be where you come in.
How you can help
The scale of the challenge in reversing the decline in threatened tree species is vast and intimidating but, not insurmountable if individuals and organisations pool their skills and work together. Conservation managers, technical specialists, scientists and members of the public all have the potential to champion the cause of individual tree species.
There are many ways you can help tree species conservation efforts, whatever your expertise. By taking any one of the suggested actions you can become part of a global movement; as one of many individuals and organisations saving threatened tree species in the wild. If that isn’t a silver lining to losing our USP – I’m not sure what is.
For more information on how you can become involved in threatened tree species conservation in your area, please contact; firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com