HomeBusinessScientists count the world's tree species (spoiler: it's a bunch)

Scientists count the world’s tree species (spoiler: it’s a bunch)

WASHINGTON : From the monkey puzzle tree of Peru to the Tasmanian blue gum of Australia, from the baobabs of Madagascar to the large sequoias of California, the world is blessed with an abundance of tree species. How many? A brand new research has the reply.

Researchers on Monday unveiled the world’s largest forest information base, comprising greater than 44 million particular person timber at greater than 100,000 websites in 90 international locations – serving to them to calculate that Earth boasts roughly 73,300 tree species.

That determine is about 14per cent greater than earlier estimates. Of that complete, about 9,200 are estimated to exist primarily based on statistical modeling however haven’t but been recognized by science, with a massive proportion of those rising in South America, the researchers mentioned.

South America, dwelling to the enormously biodiverse Amazon rainforest and farflung Andean forests, was discovered to harbor 43per cent of the planet’s tree species and the largest variety of uncommon species, at about 8,200.

Trees and forests are far more than mere oxygen producers, mentioned Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, a professor of organic range and conservation at the University of Bologna in Italy and lead writer of the research printed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Without trees and forests, we would not have clean water, safe mountain slopes, habitat for many animals, fungi and other plants, the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems, sinks for our excess of carbon dioxide, depurators of our polluted air, et cetera,” Gatti mentioned.

“Indeed, our society often considers forests as just pieces of wood and trees as natural resources, ignoring their fundamental role for humankind in providing ecosystem services that go behind the mere economic – even if important – timber, paper and pulp production. From trees and forests humanity gets inspiration, relaxation, spirituality and essentially the meaning of life,” Gatti added.

South America was discovered to have about 27,000 recognized tree species and 4,000 but to be recognized. Eurasia has 14,000 recognized species and a couple of,000 unknown, adopted by Africa (10,000 recognized/1,000 unknown), North America together with Central America (9,000 recognized/2,000 unknown) and Oceania together with Australia (7,000 recognized/2,000 unknown).

“By establishing a quantitative benchmark, our study can contribute to tree and forest conservation efforts,” mentioned research co-author Peter Reich, a forest ecologist at the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota.

“This information is important because tree species are going extinct due to deforestation and climate change, and understanding the value of that diversity requires us to know what is there in the first place before we lose it,” Reich mentioned. “Tree species diversity is key to maintaining healthy, productive forests, and important to the global economy and to nature.”

This research didn’t tally the complete variety of particular person timber globally, however 2015 analysis led by one in all the co-authors put that determine at about 3 trillion.

The new research pinpointed world tree range scorching spots in the tropics and subtropics in South America, Central America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It additionally decided that about a third of recognized species could be labeled as uncommon.

The researchers used strategies developed by statisticians and mathematicians to estimate the variety of unknown species primarily based on the abundance and presence of recognized species. Tropical and subtropical ecosystems in South America might nurture 40per cent of those yet-to-be-identified species, they mentioned.

“This study reminds us how little we know about our own planet and its biosphere,” mentioned research co-author Jingjing Liang, a professor of quantitative forest ecology at Purdue University in Indiana. “There is so much more we need to learn about the Earth so that we can better protect it and conserve natural resources for future generations.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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