There are more tree species on Earth than previously thought: a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by 100 scientists from around the world says there are 14% more tree species than expected, with 9,000 trees yet to be discovered .
Some of these unknown species are believed to be rare species with very low populations and limited spatial distribution (probably in remote tropical lowlands and mountains), rapidly disappearing due to climate change and deforestation. Thus, most of the undiscovered species are continental endemics, tropical or subtropical. And about 40% of the trees unknown to the world come from South America.
“Our data will help assess where biodiversity is most threatened. These are the tropics and subtropics of South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and it was there that we discovered known and unknown rare species. We hope this will help prioritize future efforts to conserve tree species,” said Dr. Peter Reich, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, USA.
The study used all existing global databases of tree abundance, which are confirmed to be reliable. At the same time, the absolute number of tree species on Earth is much higher: it was believed that about 64,100 species grow on the planet in a given period of time. Using new statistical methods to evaluate unique tree species, the scientists calculated that the total number of trees now known should be 73,274, with 12.5% yet to be discovered.
By the number of species unknown to science, continents and countries are distributed as follows:
• 43% – South America;
• 22% – Eurasia;
• 16% – Africa;
• 15% – North America;
• 11% – Oceania.
A variety of natural forests are scientifically the healthiest for the planet and productive for the global economy and nature, as well as efforts to conserve the current climate and resist its change. Despite the fact that trees unknown to scientists have been found, the problem of “baldness” of the land cover is still acute, because the places where endemics and rare species are found are those that are more cut down for economic profit, agriculture, construction for poor people in those regions. The current data update may contribute to tree and forest conservation efforts and the future discovery of new species in certain parts of the world.