Global count estimates Earth has 73,000 tree species – 14% more than reported | Trees and forests

There are an estimated 73,300 species of tree on Earth, 9,000 of which have but to be found, based on a worldwide count of tree species by hundreds of researchers who used second world battle codebreaking methods created at Bletchley Park to guage the variety of unknown species.

Researchers engaged on the bottom in 90 international locations collected info on 38m bushes, generally strolling for days and tenting in distant locations to succeed in them. The research discovered there are about 14% more tree species than beforehand reported and {that a} third of undiscovered tree species are uncommon, which means they could possibly be weak to extinction by human-driven adjustments in land use and the local weather disaster.

“It’s a large effort for the entire world to doc our forests,” stated Jingjing Liang, a lead creator of the paper and professor of quantitative forest ecology at Purdue College in Indiana, US. “Counting the variety of tree species worldwide is sort of a puzzle with items spreading all around the world. We solved it collectively as a staff, every sharing our personal piece.”

Jingjing Liang. {Photograph}: Tom Campbell/Purdue College


Regardless of being among the many largest and most widespread organisms, there are nonetheless hundreds of bushes to be found, with 40% of unknown species believed to be in South America, according to the paper revealed within the journal Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences (PNAS). A few of these undocumented species would in all probability have been recognized to indigenous communities however some, in essentially the most inaccessible areas, might have by no means been discovered earlier than.

The Amazon basin seems to have the very best variety of tree species at native degree, with 200 tree species a hectare. Researchers imagine this could possibly be as a result of it’s a heat, moist atmosphere suited to supporting a wider vary of species.

To estimate the variety of unknown species, scientists used the Good-Turing frequency estimation, which was created by the codebreaker Alan Turing and his assistant Irving Good when making an attempt to crack German codes for the Enigma machine in the course of the second world battle.

The idea, which was developed by the Taiwanese statistician Anne Chao to be utilized to the research of undetected species, helped researchers work out the incidence of uncommon occasions – on this case unknown species of bushes – utilizing knowledge on noticed uncommon species. Primarily, the code makes use of info on species which are solely detected a couple of times in knowledge to estimate the variety of undetected species.


The concept to do a list of the planet’s bushes got here 10 years in the past when Liang discovered knowledge on Alaska’s bushes sitting in a drawer. He was impressed by the findings and made it his private mission to get the information on-line. He then wrote a proposal to do a list of the entire world. “Individuals initially laughed at me,” he stated.

Scientists are worried many tree species will disappear before they have been documented.Scientists are nervous many tree species will disappear earlier than they’ve been documented. {Photograph}: Picasa/Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative

There isn’t any knowledge on how the variety of tree species might have modified over time, though many species are considered threatened with extinction as a consequence of deforestation and the local weather disaster. Scientists are nervous many will disappear earlier than they’ve been documented.

Liang stated: “We hope this paper will present us with benchmark knowledge in order that we will know if the whole variety of tree species on the planet has been declining, particularly throughout our mass extinction occasion.


“We have to have a look at the forest as not only a carbon reservoir, or a useful resource for extraction; we must always have a look at our forests as a habitat that comprises tens of hundreds of species of bushes, and even a a lot increased variety of flora and fauna – we have to take note of this biodiversity.”

Dr Ruth Mitchell, a plant-soil ecologist on the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, who was not concerned within the analysis, stated it confirmed that even for organisms as massive as bushes, new species have been nonetheless being found.

“It is rather thrilling, but on the similar time regarding that we’re shedding a lot biodiversity so quickly that we don’t even learn about,” she stated. “This research highlights the unbelievable variety inside our forests, a lot of which continues to be on the market ready for us to find.”

Martin Lukac, professor of ecosystem science at Studying College, who was additionally not concerned within the paper, stated: “The paper reveals that nearly half of the world’s tree species are in South America – this can be a diamond-hard proof that we should not destroy the tropical forests there.

“The tree-species variety took billions of years to build up within the Amazon,” he stated. “It might be past reckless to destroy it inside a century.”

Discover more age of extinction protection right here, and comply with biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the most recent information and options

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