New data for protection of forests – 9200 tree species still undiscovered according to researchers

New data for protection of forests – 9200 species of trees still undiscovered, according to researchers

More than a hundred researchers, including those from Zurich, have reanalyzed trees. Your data provides knowledge about forests worthy of protection.

Different tree species in the Amazon basin in Brazil. The haze in the picture is not fog, but smoke after a forest fire. (archive image)

There could be more than 73,300 species of trees on Earth, of which about 9200 have yet to be discovered. This estimate of an international team of researchers on the global tree species population is thus 14 percent higher than previously recorded figures.

South America is the continent with the greatest diversity of tree species: 43 percent of all tree species on earth thrive here, as the international research team of more than 100 people around Peter Reich from the University of Minnesota reports in the journal " Pnas ". Eurasia hosts 22 percent of tree species, followed by Africa (16 percent), North America (15 percent) and Oceania (11 percent).

Mysterious South America

Not only do the most tree species grow in South America, but there are probably more undiscovered species there than on any other continent, the researchers said. According to the study, 40 percent of the undiscovered species are in South America. The tropical and subtropical humid forests of the Amazon basin and the Andean forests between 1000 and 3500 meters above sea level are home to a particularly large number of undiscovered treasures. According to the study, there are also many species in Africa that have not yet been recorded.

Worldwide, almost one third of the still unknown species belong to the rare species, as the researchers further assume. These rare species are often endemic to certain regions of the world, i.e. they are only found there.

Forests worth protecting

For the study, in which Tom Crowther from ETH Zurich was also involved, the researchers used global databases with a total of around 64,100 species and relied on the concept of the so-called species accumulation curve. This is a commonly used tool in biology to measure species richness in a given area. In this way, the team was able to determine the number of species not yet recorded in the data collections.

The model is conservatively constructed and takes into account the possibility of misidentification of tree species as well as tree species that have not yet been recorded, Crowther explained in response to a query from the Keystone-SDA news agency. The adjusted estimates were consistent with previous studies of tree species richness.

New data for protection of forests - 9200 tree species still undiscovered according to researchers

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Among other things, the researchers hope that the newly compiled list will help them uncover the evolutionary mechanisms of species diversity. It should also help to better protect biodiversity hotspots and species threatened with extinction. That”s because it”s much more difficult to protect something you don”t know well, Crowther said.

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