Earth home to over 60,000 tree species: study

Earth home to over 60,000 tree species: study

Earth is home to 60,065 species of trees, according to a new study of the world's plants that may help identify and conserve rare and threatened species on our planet.

Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in the UK compiled the tree list by using data gathered from a network of 500 member organisations.

The study showed that with 8,715 varieties, Brazil was the nation with the greatest number of tree species. The near-Arctic region of North America had the fewest number of species, with less than 1,400 - apart from the polar regions, which have no trees.

More than half of the species (58 per cent) were endemic in just one country, suggesting that they were vulnerable to potential threats, such as deforestation from extreme weather events or human activity.

About 300 species have been identified as critically endangered as they had fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild.

It was not possible to accurately estimate the number of tree species in the world until now because the data has only just been digitised, said Paul Smith, BGCI secretary general.

"A lot of the data is not readily available to the public. The digitisation of this data, in effect, is the culmination of centuries of work," said Smith.

An important factor of the study is the geo-referencing of the tree species, which allow conservationists to locate individual species, Smith said.

"Getting location information, such as which countries do these these trees occur in, gives us key information for conservation purposes," Smithe told the 'BBC News'.

"That is hugely useful for us in prioritising which ones we need to do conservation action on and which ones we need to do assessments to find out what their status is," he added.

The research was published in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

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