New Data Counts 73k Tree Species, Estimates 9k Still Unknown

New Data Counts 73k Tree Species, Estimates 9k Still Unknown

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has used pooled data to compile the most comprehensive tree database in history, estimating that there are approximately 73,000 tree species globally (14% more than previously thought). And, 9,000 of those species have yet to be discovered. Researchers believe that up to one-third of undiscovered species could be categorized as rare "with very low populations and limited spatial distribution;" and project 40% to be located in South America where the climate remains fairly stable year round.

Why This Matters

Trees make up a huge portion of the planet's biodiversity. Forests are natural carbon sinks, annually sequestering more than 866 million tons of carbon. They provide habitat for endangered species and produce oxygen for all living organisms.

Peter Reich, the director of the Institute for Global Change Biology discusses the studies' recent findings stating: "These kinds of studies help us understand how resilient [trees] are likely to be in the face of climate change. And the less resilient they are, just adds more information and pressure on us to solve the climate crisis sooner rather than later."

PBS Terra: The Surprising Truth Behind Planting Trees and Climate Change, October 18, 2021.

Palm Oil Industry

Deforestation is a prominent issue within Latin America, and one that is increasing over time. Countries such as Brazil and Peru are destroying thousands of square kilometers of the forest, largely for palm oil production. Palm oil use is increasing all the time, as it's a crucial ingredient in up to 50% of all packaged products, and can be found in animal feed and biofuel, among a seemingly endless number of products. While it is useful, it's also a monocrop, which means it adds to the destruction of rainforest biodiversity and health. In order for it to grow, huge swaths of forest are cut down -- sometimes illegally. While richer countries like the United States are receiving these palm oil exports, producing countries face the true cost of deforestation.

Mongabay: What is the controversy around palm oil?, August 4, 2020.

Bloomberg Quicktake: The Brazilian Amazon's Tipping Point May Already Be Here, September 28, 2021.