Curious, undiscovered tree species

There are thousands of undiscovered tree species on the planet

According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , most of the previously unseen tree species are found in South America, especially in the Amazon, since tropical forests concentrate between half and two-thirds of all known species so far. The other places where undiscovered trees could be found are Eurasia, Africa, North America and Oceania.

South America is also the region of the world where the most trees have been identified: of the 64,100 species calculated by the study from the crossing of three databases, 27 thousand have been identified in the south of the American continent. Hence, the authors consider that between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon jungle, there are another 4 thousand new species.

The authors estimate that the total number of tree species on Earth amounts to 73,274, and the 14% not yet revealed consists mostly of small populations, all with a very limited spatial distribution, which makes their study and identification difficult.

Despite the optimism derived from the study, the authors warn that deforestation in key points such as the Amazon (which in 2021 reached record figures in the last 15 years) could cause the disappearance of dozens of species before they are discovered by science.

Beyond statistics, knowing in depth the state of tree species is essential for their conservation and the maintenance of their environmental services. "Expanding our knowledge of the richness and diversity of trees is key to preserving the stability and functioning of ecosystems," explains Roberto Cazzolla, lead author of the study from the University of Bologna,

Added to the human overexploitation of forests is the climate crisis, whose effects are pushing the adaptive capacity of countless species to the limit, and trees are not exempt from risk in the face of the accelerated increase in global temperature, calculated at 2.7 ºC according to the United Nations Environment Program. (Text and photos: National Geographic)

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