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published on 1 October 2019 in ecosystems

European red list of trees, 42% of tree species threatened

In Europe, 42% of tree species have been assessed as threatened – endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable – and therefore more exposed to the risk of extinction.  This is reported in the European Red List of Trees, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) publication, which identifies species threatened with extinction at regional level, in order to take conservation action to avoid extinction.  In particular, this publication summarises the results related to all native European tree species, for a total of 454 specie, 265 (over 58%) of which are endemic to continental Europe. For 57 species there was not enough information to assign a state of conservation to them, and thus they are classed as lacking data. Research therefore needs to continue into these species.

According to the report, the main threat is the presence of plants and trees, introduced by humans over the course time, which now compete with native trees, with an impact on 38% of the tree species, followed by deforestation, timber harvesting and urban development (which impact 20% of tree species). Animal rearing, land no longer farmed, changes to forestry and woodland management and other changes to ecosystems, such as those deriving from fires, are further threats that impact the survival of trees, especially of those already endangered or vulnerable.

The report also mentions the effects that the declining state of health of tree species has on other organisms. The life of many animals, including terrestrial molluscs (like snails and slugs) and freshwater molluscs, essential for their ecological functions, in fact depends on the state of health of trees: indeed, these animals play a key role in regenerating the soil and recycling nutrients in natural ecosystems, and are also an important source of food for birds, mammals and invertebrates. It is very clear, therefore, that there will be cascade effects on all the organisms belonging to the ecosystems to which the trees belong.

With the sponsorship of the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research
 
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