Posted on
25 August 1998
Embargoed until: 10:30 GMT 25 August 1998

Geneva - The World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), IUCN -- the World Conservation Union and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) today announced that 10% of the world's known tree species face extinction.

The findings are reported in the World List of Threatened Trees, compiled by WCMC, resulting from a three-year partnership with the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN that was funded by the Dutch Government. The World List of Threatened Trees was launched today in Geneva at the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, where governments from around the world are meeting to discuss how to tackle the continuing crisis facing the world's forests.

More than 8,750 of the 80,000 to 100,000 tree species known to science were found to be threatened with extinction. This includes almost a thousand species believed to be Critically Endangered, with some species only known from one or a handful of individuals.

Fewer than one quarter of the species found to be threatened benefit at this time from conservation measures: Only 12% of these species are recorded in protected areas and only 8% of species are known to be in cultivation. We have found that threats to tree species are increasing and that unless conservation action is taken immediately, some species face certain extinction and many others will be joining the list of threatened trees, said Sara Oldfield of WCMC, an editor of the report.

The threats to tree species include felling for timber and wood fuel, agriculture, expansion of human settlements, uncontrolled forest fires, invasive alien species and unsustainable forest management. With over 1,000 tree species threatened as a result of felling, the sustainable management of forests is a top priority. WWF is backing a scheme by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to independently certify well managed forests. The timber products from these forests are marked with the FSC logo to allow consumers to exercise a responsible choice about the timber that they buy.

Trees are an intrinsic part of almost all the world's forest ecosystems which provide services of incalculable value to people, including climate control, water catchment, medicine, food and timber. The majority of the Earth's species are dependent upon the survival of trees; tropical forests are home to some 90% of the world's terrestrial species. We know that the conservation situation for plants in general is alarming, said Dr Wendy Strahm of IUCN. If we can't save these elephants of the plant world, then the prognosis for all other species which depend on trees is frightening.

Key solutions advocated by the authors of The World List of Threatened Trees include sustainable forest management, protection and restoration of forest habitat and control of alien invasive species, supplemented by ex situ conservation in botanic gardens, arboreta and seed banks.

With 77 species already extinct, this report has now confirmed our worst nightmare said Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud of WWF. The governments gathering this week must now realize the sense of urgency to increase forest protection, eliminate illegal logging, and improve forest management.

For further information, please contact:
Wendy Strahm, IUCN Plants Officer;
Tel: +41 22 999-0157; Fax: +41 22 999-0015
Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, WWF International;
Tel: +41 22 364 9011; Fax: +41 22 364 0640
Tori Lyall, WWF-Forests For Life Campaign
Tel: +44 1483 419 266; Fax: +44 1483 427 965 Mobile: +44 7771 862 969

Notes to Editors

Slides: Slides of threatened tree species are available.

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF): WWF is the world's largest independent conservation organization. It has over five million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's Forests for Life Campaign supports the following forest conservation targets:

1) The protection of a minimum of 10% of the world's forests. 22 countries have already made a pledge to protect a minimum of 10% of their forests by the year 2000: Argentina, Armenia , Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the people's republic of China, Columbia, Greece, Lithuania, Malawi, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Romania, the Russian Republic of Sakha, Slovak Republic, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam.

2) The independent certification of 25 million hectares of forests by 2001. 10 Million hectares of forests worldwide are now certified. Leading retailers and manufactures around the world have formed buyers groups (presently in 10 different countries) and are sending the message to thousands of suppliers that they care about the forests from which their products have been sourced.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC): WCMC is internationally recognised as a centre of excellence in the location and management of information on the conservation and sustainable use of the world's living resources. WCMC is an independent non-profit organization. It was established by three of the key international organisations working in the field of biodiversity conservation: IUCN -- The World Conservation Union; the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

IUCN --The World Conservation Union: IUCN brings together States, government agencies and non-governmental organizations in a unique partnership: over 900 members spread across 138 countries. IUCN seeks to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is one of the six volunteer commissions of IUCN. The SSC's mission is to conserve biological diversity by developing and executing programmes to save, restore and wisely manage species and their habitats. With support from the IUCN secretariat, SSC's programmes are delivered by 7000 volunteer members from nearly every country in the world.

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