Spotlight on tree species

The future of all life on Earth, including our own, is inextricably linked with the fate of the world’s trees. They supply the air that we breathe, help to keep our climate stable and form the backbone of the world’s forests, providing habitat, food and shelter for millions of other species.

Safeguarding the world’s forests has long been one of Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI) key priorities, and we have a proven track record in protecting these ecologically, culturally and economically vital habitats.

While the importance of forest ecosystems as a whole is well known, the fundamental and often irreplaceable role played by individual types of tree is all too often forgotten. From apple trees and baobabs to yew trees and zebrawoods, different tree species provide humanity with a range of food, medicines and timbers.

Yet despite the fact that one in six of all tree species is in danger of extinction, conservation effort to date has largely failed to consider trees to be in need of active conservation management in their own right.

Today, over 10,000 tree species are threatened with extinction. Of even greater concern, more than 1,900 species are listed as critically endangered – likely to go extinct unless urgent, targeted action is taken now to save them.

FFI’s vast experience of forest conservation means that we are ideally equipped to drill down and address the survival needs of individual tree species within those wider landscapes.

Saving our charismatic megaflora

FFI adopts a unique approach to tree conservation. We work across the world to protect areas of forest rich in tree diversity and carry out urgent and targeted action to ensure that the most at-risk tree species survive within these habitats. This may include protecting valuable timber species from selective logging, helping local communities to ensure harvest of tree products is sustainable and replanting some of the world’s rarest species to boost numbers in the wild.

The Global Trees Campaign – an advocate and voice for threatened trees

FFI was a co-founder of the Global Trees Campaign, which it now manages in partnership with Botanic Gardens Conservation International. This is the only international conservation programme dedicated to saving the world’s threatened tree species from extinction in the wild.

Together with our large network of partners around the world, we have supported the conservation of more than 200 tree species in 38 countries, with FFI directly working in 24 of these.

The Global Trees Campaign also acts as an advocate and voice for threatened trees, both catalysing others to take action and directly supporting conservation work on the ground.

We work in four ways:

1. Identifying priority tree species for action.

We identify which trees are most at threat so that we can direct conservation efforts to the species most in need. This is mainly done through red listing trees under the recognised IUCN system, but we also take into account how people use and value trees to ensure conservation action also reflects local priorities.

2. Directly supporting projects relating to threatened trees

We take action on the ground for some of world’s most threatened tree species, all of which reflect the wide array of cultural, economic and ecological values of trees.

Examples of this work include:

  • Supporting our local partner and communities to conserve Grandider’s baobab in Madagascar – an iconic tree with a huge, swollen trunk, which is pollinated by bats and greatly valued by people for its fruits, seeds and bark (the latter of which is used for rope, roofing and medicines).
  • Helping communities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to sustainably manage a number of highly threatened fruit and nut trees such as Niedzwetzky’s apple – an ancient ancestor of many of today’s domesticated varieties.
  • Supporting Saint Lucia’s Forestry Department to conserve the lansan tree, which is endemic to the West Indies and has suffered a steep decline as a result of destructive tapping for its resin, which is prized as incense. Using a scientific approach, we helped to identify a more sustainable and productive harvesting method, and supported the development of a species management plan that involves training and licensing tappers to use the new method.

For a full list of projects please visit the Global Trees Campaign website.

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3. Empowering partners

We work to ensure that the future of the world’s threatened trees is in safe hands, supporting local conservationists to develop the skills and knowledge they need to deliver effective action on the ground. We provide local conservationists with best practice guidance and help them to get training and technical support from tree conservation experts. For example, we have provided a long-term programme of training and technical support to nature reserve managers and rangers in southern China, helping them to better conserve a range of magnolia, fir and rhododendron species.

4. Inspiring others to act for threatened trees

With more than 10,000 tree species at risk of extinction, we recognise that we cannot do this alone. We therefore work to inspire and motivate other individuals and organisations to act for tree species. For example, in Brazil’s Araucaria forest we are successfully influencing people working in tree nurseries and tree planting projects so that they use a much higher diversity of tree species. This is helping to ensure that trees at risk of extinction are routinely included in planting initiatives, saving the tree species themselves and establishing much richer forests (which are good for other wildlife). The Global Trees Campaign is also supporting emerging tree conservationists to become ambassadors for tree conservation in high priority regions, so that they can catalyse more concerted action on behalf of threatened trees in their own countries.

For more information about our work through the Global Trees Campaign please visit: www.globaltrees.org.