Over half (58%) of Europe’s endemic trees are threatened with extinction, according to assessments of the state of the continent’s biodiversity published today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The introduction of invasive species, unsustainable logging and urban development are key threats causing the decline of tree species such as the horse-chestnut across Europe.
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. 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 as Critically Endangered, or one step away from going extinct. 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.
“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,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor, Head of the IUCN Red List Unit. “Perhaps most importantly, 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.”
Tree species in the Sorbus genus, which includes the Crimean Rowan (Sorbus tauricola) and Mountain-ash (Sorbus aucuparia subsp. maderensis), are particularly affected, with three-quarters of Europe’s 170 Sorbus species assessed as threatened.