Wildlife & Biodiversity

Missing the woods: 18% of India’s 2,603 tree species threatened with extinction

Globally, nearly 30 per cent of trees are threatened due to a number of factors, according to the State of the World’s Trees report

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Wednesday 01 September 2021
The Great Banyan in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden in Howrah, West Bengal. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Some 469 of India’s 2,603 tree species (18 per cent) are threatened with extinction, a new report released September 1, 2021, has shown. The country is also home to 650 endemic tree species that are not found anywhere else.

About a third of the tree species found in the Indo-Malaya (Tropical Asia) biogeographic realm of which India is a part, have not been evaluated and data about them is deficient.

This is also true for the Oceania realm, according to the State of the World’s Trees September 2021, released by London-based Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

Other than Indo-Malaya and Oceania, the Afrotropics (Africa south of the Sahara, including Madagascar) have the highest proportion of threatened tree species.

The Palearctic and Nearctic (North America) realms mostly have tree species that are not threatened.

The world has 58,497 tree species. The Neotropics (Central and South America) have the largest number of tree species with 23,631 tree species.

Indo-Malaya is second, with 13,739 species and the Afrotropics have 9,237 species. The Nearctic and Oceania have the lowest number of tree species.

The researchers found that 142 of the world’s tree species have become extinct, 17,510 or 29.9 per cent are threatened, 4,099 or 7.1 per cent are possibly threatened, 24,255 or 41.5 per cent are not threatened, 7,700 or 13.2 per cent are data deficient and 4,790 or 8.2 per cent have not been evaluated.

Among countries, Brazil, China, Colombia and Indonesia had a large number of tree species as well as a large number of threatened species. Madagascar is one of the countries with the highest number of threatened trees.

The report also noted that on an average, 11 per cent of the flora or plant life of every country was made up of threatened species.

This figure increased in the case of Madagascar where 59 per cent of its flora was made up of threatened species. The islands of St Helena and Mauritius faced similar situations with 69 per cent and 57 per cent of their flora threatened.

There were also 27 countries that had no threatened species of trees.

The report cited the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, 2020 to enumerate the major threats facing trees globally.

These include agriculture (29 per cent), logging (27 per cent), livestock farming (14 per cent), residential and commercial development (13 per cent), fire and fire suppression (13 per cent), energy production and mining (nine per cent), wood and pulp plantations (six per cent), invasive and other problematic species (five per cent) and climate change (four per cent).

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