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More trees than previously thought

The Amazon rainforest, one of the ecosystems with the greatest diversity of tree species on the planet

Léo Ramos Chaves

A study involving more than a hundred scientists, including some from Brazil, estimates that there are about 73,000 species of trees on Earth, of which 9,200 are yet to be described (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 8). The new figure was obtained by combining two global databases: the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative, and TreeChange. It is 14% larger than the currently accepted number of 64,100 cataloged species. Most of the unknown species are “rare, endemic on the continent and populate tropical and subtropical areas,” the researchers wrote. “These results highlight the vulnerability of global forest biodiversity to anthropogenic changes, particularly land use and climate, because the survival of rare species is disproportionately threatened by these pressures,” Peter Reich, one of the study leaders, told the University of Michigan website. In the article describing the results, the research group says it hopes the data will help prioritize and support public policies for biodiversity conservation.