The researchers investigating the planet’s trees sent a veiled threat to humanity

Even our most famous wood species are critically endangered, from the high coastal redwoods to the dinosaur-era pine and spruce that make up the perfect Christmas trees.

According to a new study, the extinction of some species is threatening entire ecosystems rather than just specific forests.

Scientists searching for the world’s trees issue a dire warning to humanity

Kings Canyon National Park

(Photo: Matt Artz/Unsplash)

A global study titled The State of the World’s Trees published last year found that a third of all tree species are on the verge of extinction according to Science Alert.

This equates to about 17,500 species of endangered trees.

This is more than twice the total number of endangered tetrapods (mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles).

Some trees are so uncommon that only one individual is known, such as the only Mauritian pine, Hyophorbe amaricaulis.

The same academic team responsible for studies of the state of the world’s trees is sending a “warning to humanity” about the implications of these losses in a new publication, backed by an additional 45 experts from 20 countries.

Malin Rivers of Botanic Gardens Conservation International and colleagues explain the many impacts these losses will have on our economy, livelihoods and food.

The majority of our fruits come from trees, as do many nuts and pharmaceuticals, with non-woody items accounting for approximately $88 billion in trade.

880 million people in the developing world depend on wood for fuel, and 1.6 billion people live within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of the forest, and depend on it for food and income.

Overall, trees contribute about US$1.3 trillion to the global economy each year, yet we kill billions of them each year, clearing vast swathes of land for agriculture and construction.

Trees are their miniature worlds, teeming with unicellular and multicellular living forms like other plants, fungi, bacteria, and animals.

When the tree dies, the whole world dies with it. They often serve as the basis for the entire web of life that surrounds them.

The loss of diversity, as with all living systems, makes the entire network of living relationships more vulnerable.

This is because less diversity means less diversity in the immune response, genes, and reactions to environmental conditions, which means lower odds of surviving the many dangers that hammer the complex web of interdependence that is the human body.

Even if a species is already uncommon, the extinction of one species can have a huge domino effect on everything else it interacts with.

Species that depend on our already depleted forests have declined by about 53% since 1970, and more forests around the world are showing signs of stress.

This affects more than just the different life forms that trees interact with.

Trees also intertwine with the Earth’s soil, atmosphere, and weather, cleaning the air, producing oxygen, and causing precipitation.

It contains three quarters of the world’s available fresh water and more than half of the harmful carbon dioxide.

Some tree species, such as those that migrate to land free of fires, get lucky and take advantage of the rapid environmental changes we’ve made.

Much work needs to be done on a societal basis to address this, but we can all help by learning about the value of trees and combating our plant blindness.

Earlier this year researchers noted that fewer people are pursuing vegetarian education in the UK than ever before, even though we need plants more than ever.

Read also: A new study concludes that North American birds have not been completely modified due to climate change

Climate change and trees

Trees absorb and ingest carbon that would contribute to global warming as they grow.

Trees (and all plants) use solar energy to perform photosynthesis, a process that converts carbon dioxide and water into energy (glucose) for their cells, according to the article.

Finally, trees end up feeding themselves with the carbon we desperately need to keep it from entering the environment.

Trees help soil absorb and store carbon as well as absorb carbon dioxide.

Although the seas do not perform well at absorbing nearly 90% of all carbon emissions and thus facing the consequences of ocean acidification, trees are very important in the fight against climate change.

Several scientists have examined the state of tree cover worldwide in the Global Tree Restoration Potential Research published in the journal Science.

They measured tree cover using 80,000 high-resolution Google Earth satellite images, which were then combined with soil, topography and other climatic factors using artificial intelligence.

As a result, a global map was created showing where additional trees could be planted to help fight climate change.

According to the same study, there is scope for planting another 0.9 billion acres of canopy cover, which would store 205 gigatons of carbon.

To paraphrase the authors, we can consider global tree restoration as one of our most successful responses to climate change to date.

A study by Stanford University and experts from the University of Barcelona also highlighted the ability of plants to continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the environment.

Despite warnings that as carbon dioxide concentrations grow, special attention must be paid to the soil nitrogen and phosphorous balance, the study also notes that trees have tremendous potential to help avert climate change.

Related articles: Researchers discover importance of the carbon cycle in predicting climate change

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