Over half of Native European Tree Species at Risk of Extinction

Over half of Native European Tree Species at Risk of Extinction

58% of Europe’s native trees are threatened with extinction, according to a new report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The newly published European Red List of Trees evaluated the conservation status of all 454 tree species native to the continent, and found that two fifths (42%) are regionally threatened with extinction.

According to the findings, the introduction of invasive species, unsustainable logging and urban development are key threats causing the decline of tree species such as the horse-chestnut.

Among Europe’s endemic trees – those that don’t exist anywhere else on earth – 58% were found to be threatened, and 15% (66 species) assessed were found to be Critically Endangered, or one step away from extinction.

Invasive and problematic native species are the largest threat to European trees. These include pests and diseases, but also invasive plants introduced by humans which compete with native tree saplings.

Commenting on the findings, Craig Hilton-Taylor, Head of the IUCN Red List Unit said, ‘It is alarming that over half of Europe’s endemic tree species are now threatened with extinction. Trees are essential for life on earth, and European trees in all their diversity are a source of food and shelter for countless animal species such as birds and squirrels, and play a key economic role. From the EU to regional assemblies and the conservation community, we all need to work together to ensure their survival.’

To address the alarming findings he said,  ‘……measures for conserving these threatened species, and many other overlooked species highlighted in today’s European Red List assessments, need to be integrated into regular conservation planning and land management.’

Climate change was included as one of the primary threats in a second assessment which shows almost half of all native shrubs are threatened with extinction. The primary threats to these species are the loss and destruction of Europe’s wild areas, as well as agriculture, the introduction of alien invasive species and climate change.

According to the IUCN these species are rarely prioritised in conservation planning and policy making yet they help provide crucially important ecosystem services, such as the food we eat and the air we breathe.

The IUCN is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organisations. It comprises of 1300 members in over 170 countries.

More than 150 experts across Europe contributed to the project, which was financed by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme, and co-financed by the European Council, British Entomological Society, National Park’s and Wildlife Services Ireland and several European States including Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

(Image: WikimediaImage via Pixabay.com)








Antoinette Tyrrell is a writer and journalist who started her career in print and broadcast journalism in Ireland. An English and History graduate of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, she worked for 11 years in corporate public relations for Irish Government bodies in the Foreign Direct Investment and Energy sectors.

She is the founder of GoWrite, a business writing and public relations consultancy. Her work has appeared in a range of national and international media and trade publications. She is also a traditionally published novelist of commercial fiction.

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