Trees provide us with shade, keeping us cool in the summer months. They’re also beautiful to look at. But most importantly, they’re a huge asset to the environment. Trees are responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide from the air we breathe, making them vital for combating global warming and climate change.
Sadly, trees are under extreme threat for a number of different reasons, including logging, rising seas, livestock farming, and even extreme weather. Together, they’re threatening the existence of roughly 30% (a third!) of trees globally, according to the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)’s recently-published landmark report, State of the World’s Trees.
This report is a collection of five years’ worth of research, with the goal of identifying major gaps in tree conservation efforts. It’s also one of the first assessments of the world’s threatened trees. The research uncovered 17,500 tree species are at risk of extinction (including oak, maple, and magnolias), while 440 species have fewer than 50 individuals left. This amount is nearly double the number of threatened mammals, birds, and reptiles combined.
Most of this devastation is affecting the world’s top six countries for tree-species diversity, including Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Columbia, and Venezuela, but that doesn’t exclude the United States. Certain tree species in the U.S.—from the California coast to Arkansas forests—are also threatened by factors such as pests, development, and diseases.
Recent wildfires have also made an impact in the U.S. As of September 2, the National Interagency Fire Center has listed a total of 43,168 wildfires across the country in 2021, resulting in the burning of more than five million acres. Some of these areas have been burned so badly that even reseeding efforts may fail.
This news can be pretty harrowing. But all hope isn’t lost! The report says at least 64% of all tree species can be found in at least one protected area, and about 30% can be found in botanic gardens and seed banks.
We know we need to do more, and understanding what’s currently happening can allow us to take action—and inspire others to do so as well. Here are some things you can do to help save the trees.
5 Things You Can Do to Save the Trees
1. Do Your Research
Educating yourself about forests and the threats they face is a critical first step. The GlobalTreePortal, launched by BGCI, makes it easier. This portal shows which trees need the most protection, where action is needed most urgently, and showcases where the gaps in conservation efforts are. With this knowledge, conservationists and policymakers can do what’s necessary to protect endangered species. And so can you.
2. Expand Tree Planting Programs
Another way to protect these species is through supporting (or participating in) tree planting programs. Reforestation—the process of replanting an area with trees—is a critical solution to climate change. This could mean participating in tree planting programs in your own community, or donating to organizations that do.
3. Use Your Voice
Encourage your local government to protect forests, create parks, and oppose destructive development in your area. Your voice carries weight—especially in your own congressional district. This could mean attending town hall meetings, public hearings, and even submitting public comments. The EPA even has a cheat sheet that will help!
4. Shop Forest-Friendly
As a consumer, your purchasing power—and voting with your dollars—can make a huge impact. To save the trees, be on the lookout for ethical and sustainable labels like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified, which means the product comes from a responsibly managed forest. You’ll find it on everything from toilet paper to furniture.
5. Spend Time in the Forest
There’s something about being in nature that resets your mind and feeds your soul. Taking some time to truly explore forests can give you a greater appreciation for them—and fuel you to take action to save them. Plan a weekend camping trip, or plan out an excursion to a National Park.
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