It’s April 24th, 2020 and that means it’s Arbor Day! Time to celebrate the trees that clean our air, produce oxygen, improve our water quality, provide shelter for millions of animals, and so much more. And unfortunately, even though trees provide us with all of these gifts, many species are facing extinction. Let’s examine the 10 most endangered trees on our planet.
How Trees Help Humanity
Trees are a critical component for most life forms on Earth. Here are some of their most impactful benefits trees have on humanity:
A Living Air Filter
Every year, humans produce more air pollution and release harmful greenhouse gases into the air. Trees have the capability to absorb and clean these chemicals from the air we breathe.
This happens in the canopy of the tree. Harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and sulfur dioxide are collected in the leaves. The chemicals are absorbed through their stomata (pores) and removed.
And as most people know, the photosynthesis process allows trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into oxygen. This is extremely useful since there are millions of tons of carbon released into the atmosphere each year.
Improve Water Quality
One of the most important, yet unknown, benefits of trees is their impact on both quality and control of water. This can be broken down into 4 main parts: interception, infiltration, filtration, and stabilization.
Let’s think about a heavy rainstorm in a forest for a moment. The canopy of the tree will intercept the rain first, like the first line of defense. This holds large quantities of water and prevents it from reaching the ground all at once. This helps prevent streams and rivers from getting over flooded.
The leaves and branches that fall off of fully grown trees help create a layer of debris on the ground that soak up some of this water. The roots help break up the soil below the surface, which allows the water to be absorbed even deeper than normal. As a result, the soil will not become unstable.
Believe it or not, if you have trees by your home, you are saving energy each year. That is because they can help your home stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
In the summer, the sun shines down on the ground. However, as we all know, the trees canopy will block the rays and create shade. And shading your home can save you anywhere from 15% to 35% on airconditioning costs each year.
However, the shading effects are not the only benefit to your home. During the winter and fall when the wind is strong, trees act as a windbreaker. This can reduce your heating costs by 10-15% a year.
The 10 Most Endangered Trees
The world is home to 60,065 species of tree, however, over 8,000 of those are endangered. And at least 77 trees have gone extinct in the last century. As climate conditions continue to change around the planet, more are likely to suffer as a result.
For this year’s Arbor Day, let’s shine the light on some of these trees. Here are 10 of the most endangered trees on the planet:
Note: The contents of this list are in no particular order.
1. Virginia Round-Leaf Birch
The Virginia Round-Leaf Birch was originally thought to be extinct for over 60 years until it was rediscovered in the wild in 1975. And thanks to conservation efforts, the tree was able to make a recovery but is still facing the “Threatened” status.
The main threat the tree faces is not nature itself, but humans. Specifically, landowners in the region who are vandalizing the recovery sites. However, while the population is slowly stabilizing, there are only an estimated 961 of them in the wild.
2. Monkey Puzzle
The Monkey Puzzle, or Chile Pine, is one cool looking tree that can be found in the mountains of Chile that can live for over 700 years. It’s spiny leaves evolved from the prehistoric age to keep Dinosaurs at bay.
However, these defenses are not enough to keep it safe from humans. It is has become endangered as a direct result of deforestation.
The tree is naturally resilient to the changing climate and can even protect itself from natural fires. However, farmers and ranchers have been intentionally setting trees on fire to clear the land for use. This behavior is key to starting Amazon Rain Forest fires.
The tree is illegal to cut down or remove in its home, but this rule is being ignored.
3. Big-Leaf Mahagony
The Big-Leaf Mahgony trees population has declined by 70% since the 1950s. This is a direct result of how valuable Mahagony is as a building resource. In fact, it is one of the most expensive types of wood to purchase, which is why mahogany furniture is so costly.
As a result of this, the trees are cut down to meet demand. Countries that rely on them for a source of income have regulations in place that would facilitate their protection, however, the success of these are questionable at best.
The Lo’ulu tree is native to Hawaii and is one of the most critically endangered trees on the planet. Its population once sat at just 12 in 2006, but thanks to conservation efforts, it currently sits at just under 200 trees.
There are two main factors that have led to the harsh decline of this once prosperous tree. The first being the land being cleared to facilitate the growth of Hawaii’s tourism business. The second was that animals. In particular, the feral pigs would de-root the trees and the black roof rats would eat the seeds.
This combination resulted in the living trees being destroyed and provided no way for them to repopulate.
5. Bois Dentelle
The Bois Dentelle is critically endangered and has the lowest population on this list of just 2. This tree is truly beautiful and produces white bell-shaped flowers when it goes into full bloom. It is located high in the cloud forest of a Mauritius island.
Unlike many other trees on this list, it is not valuable and that is its main threat. Its native habitat was getting overrun with more attractive invasive species, which drove other plants in the same area to extinction.
This would have had the same fate, but luckily it was saved. However, the population has not recovered and it is on the brink of extinction despite conservation efforts.
6. Dragon Tree
With perhaps the coolest name on this list, the Dragon Tree is another critically endangered tree. It has a rich history and even appeared in a famous Greek myth: The Apples of the Hesperides.
However, unlike the myth that saw the tree spread through the region, it has declined substantially.
The main issue is that animals are eating the tree’s seeds. This makes it hard for the tree to repopulate naturally. In particular, goats, rats, and rabbits are the tree’s biggest predators.
7. The African Baobab
The African Baobab is the most iconic tree in Africa due to its unique shape and its appearance in the Lion King. However, it is also very valuable to the residents.
The tree produces the Baobab fruit, the bark can be used to create clothing and rope, and much more. However, the tree is most well-known for its long life span.
Unfortunately, climate change is killing these ancient trees. Research has found that Baobob trees that have been around for over 2,000 years are dying in large groups. These enormous trees need to store large quantities of water, which has been hard to do as droughts have become far more common.
Koki’o is the second tree from Hawaii on this list and it is actually not endangered. Instead, it has the infamous status of extinct in the wild. This means that the tree does not exist naturally anywhere in the world. It is only alive as a result of 23 grafted plants.
There are plans to try and restore this native plant by examining its history and finding a suitable habitat. Plants will be grown in safe houses before they are moved into the wild.
9. Honduras Rosewood
Honduras Rosewood is a very dense and durable wood commonly used for the construction of acoustic instruments. As a result, it was very sought after and is now endangered.
The main threats it faces are a combination of over logging and habitat destruction. Unfortunately, Belize, its native habitat, has adopted the slash and burn approach for land expansion. This means they set fire to the land and clear it out, similar to many other counties in South America.
10. Pennantia Baylisiana
The Pennantia Baylisiana was once considered the rarest tree in the world with only a single living tree in the wild. However, thanks to conservation efforts, the tree is on track to recovery with 1,600 seeds planted back in 2010. But, it still remains endangered.
What drove this tree so close to extinction? That would be the introduction of goats into its natural habitat. The goats went on to eat almost every single tree on the planet.
Plant A Tree on Arbor Day
The entire premise of Arbor Day is to celebrate trees for all of the gifts they give us, and there is no better way to return the favor that to plant a tree of your own. If your looking for helpful tips and resources, look no further than the Arbor Day Foundation.
Try to plant something native in your area. Not only will this ensure that it can survive, but it will also help local wildlife strive. And don’t forget to share it on your favorite social media websites to encourage your friends and family to do the same.
How do you plan on celebrating Arbor Day 2020?