The Guardian view on saving forests: when trees are at risk, so are we | Editorial

The Guardian view on saving forests: when trees are at risk, so are we | Editorial

Plantations are no replacement for biodiverse forests that have evolved over thousands of years

People need trees. A world without ilex, cinnamon and rosewood trees, a world devoid of magnolias, hornbeams and maples would be much the poorer. We rely on trees, of course, to absorb and store carbon dioxide. They provide us with food, fuel, medicine and construction materials. They shelter us from storms; they reduce soil erosion. Without them, other plants and animals would be lost for ever – in the UK, native oaks feed and shelter about 2,300 other species. We are only beginning to fully comprehend their social nature and the “wood wide web” which connects plants together through roots, fungi and bacteria. We need them, too, because their grace and beauty lift our spirits and restore our calm.

There are almost 58,500 tree species in the world, a richness few of us can truly comprehend. But a shocking new international study has warned that between a third and half of those are at risk of extinction in the wild – posing a risk of wider ecosystem collapse. The comprehensive report by Botanic Gardens Conservation International, which was five years in the making, found that twice as many tree species are threatened as mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles combined.

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