Trees with beatuiful colors seen from a high angle. This image was taken in October in a forest close to Sandefjord city, Norway.

1057233222

Trees with beatuiful colors seen from a high angle. This image was taken in October in a forest close to Sandefjord city, Norway.

Photo by: Baac3nes

Baac3nes

Thousands of Tree Species Remain Undiscovered, say Scientists

By: Lucy Sherriff

There are around 9,200 tree species still to be discovered, most of them in the tropics, an incredible new study has revealed.

February 22, 2022

Our forests are even more mysterious than we thought, following a worldwide estimate of tree biodiversity. Trees are hard to quantify as they are not always that easy to identify, thanks to their height, their close positioning to one another, and the fact that there are tens of thousands of species.

The study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, relied on the efforts of scientists across the globe who have been categorizing trees into two data sets – the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative, and Treechange. The former records every species found in forest plots around the globe, while Treechange compiles sightings of individual species.

To come to their estimate of 9,200, researchers extrapolated from the number of rare trees that are already logged in the databases, because most of the unknown tree species are likely to be rare. Scientists believe that a third of these unknown trees are also likely to be endangered.

A variation of tall and short green leafy trees, bushes and shrubs of varied shades of lush green foliage and grasses grow along the hillside of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador.  The tropical rainforest provides a cornucopia of vegetation.  Low clouds form a fog that rolls in during the late afternoon hours giving the natural landscape scene a sense of mystery.

1215226906

A variation of tall and short trees, bushes, lush green foliage, and grasses grow along the hillside of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. The tropical rainforest provides a cornucopia of vegetation.

Photo by: Mark A Paulda

Mark A Paulda

A variation of tall and short trees, bushes, lush green foliage, and grasses grow along the hillside of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. The tropical rainforest provides a cornucopia of vegetation.

They used the two databases to calculate that there are around 63,800 known tree species on the planet, with the most number of species residing in South America.

There, scientists believe more than 40% of undiscovered tree species can be found, thanks to the climate historically being stable, meaning that the continent’s flora has not had to adapt to any sudden weather or environmental changes.

This, of course, is no longer the case. As the climate crisis brings more extreme weather patterns, researchers say these unknown, rare trees will struggle to survive.

"We know that we're losing trees to deforestation and climate change -- species are going extinct. And that's important," co-author of the study Peter Reich said. "But actually, knowing what you have before you lose it is important."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 05: Leonardo DiCaprio attends the world premiere of Netflix's "Don't Look Up" on December 05, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage,)

1357365947

The newly-discovered tree was named after actor and climate activist, Leonardo DiCaprio.

Photo by: Theo Wargo

Theo Wargo

The newly-discovered tree was named after actor and climate activist, Leonardo DiCaprio.

Recently, a new tropical tree species discovered in Cameroon was named after actor and well-known climate advocate Leonardo Di Caprio. International scientists at London’s Royal Botanic Kew Gardens and the National Herbarium of Cameroon honored the actor by naming the tree uvariopsis dicaprio. The species is four meters tall, with bouquets of yellow and green flowers on its trunk, and belongs to the ylang ylang family.

The tree was discovered in the Ebo Forest, an area home to more than 40 indigenous communities, gorillas, forest elephants, and chimpanzees. Plants are frequently named after scientists who have dedicated their lives to researching botany, and DiCaprio drew attention to the Yabassi Key Biodiversity Area – where the Ebo Forest is located – last year when it was under threat from logging companies.

"We very much appreciated the support Leo gave us in campaigning to protect Ebo last year so it seemed fitting to honor him in this way, naming a species unique only to this forest, after him," Martin Cheek, a scientist at RBG Kew who was involved in the research, said in a statement announcing the discovery of the new species, which were published in the scientific journal Peer J.

Next Up

The World is Waking Up to the Importance of Mangroves

Mangroves are threatened by sea level rise, lack of sediment, and human activity. So why should we care?

Forest Projects Will Help Rebalance Earth’s Climate

Forests might be the best tool humanity has to tackle climate change. Trees give cooling shade, absorb and store carbon dioxide (CO2), recycle water, and provide habitat for other plants and animals. Huge international projects like the Trillion Trees initiative believe planting forests will ultimately help to rebalance Earth’s climate.

Supertrees That Suck Up More Carbon Could Be Forest Climate Fix

Forestation and tree growth are perhaps the most powerful tool for reducing levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere and tackling climate change. Now genetically modified (GM) ‘supertrees’ that grow faster and rapidly take up CO2 could be used to address the climate crisis.

Fishermen and Scientist Develop Rope-less Gear to Save Whales

Fishermen are testing alternative rope-less gear in order to help an effort to save the critically endangered whale species.

What Fat Bears and Astronauts Have in Common

The mysteries around hibernating bears have intrigued curious children and researchers alike for ages. What is hibernation, what causes it and aren’t bears too big to truly hibernate? And probably most interestingly - could humans do this someday?

If A Bat Were To Bite You In Your Sleep, You'd Probably Never Know

Rabies is rare, but most cases are associated with bats.

How Frogs Boost Their Sex Appeal

Male frogs form ‘boy bands’ to serenade females and woo them into their mating pool.

Believed-Extinct Rio Apaporis Caiman Rediscovered

The believed-extinct Rio Apaporis caiman (Caiman crocodilus apaporiensis) has been captured by Forrest Galante, wildlife biologist and host of Animal Planet’s EXTINCT OR ALIVE, and team, making history once again.

5 Things You Didn't Know Climate Change Could Do

Climate change has some complex effects that you may not even realize exist. Read on to learn more.

Mark Rober and MrBeast Team Up to Plant 20 Million Trees

They're planting 20 million trees, but they're on a deadline. Here's what you need to know to support their cause!