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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK


'Tenth of tree species threatened'

Forest fires are partly to blame, says the report

Environmentalists are calling for urgent conservation action after a report warned that 10% of the world's known tree species are facing extinction.

The BBC's Richard Wilson talks to environmentalists about the problem
The study by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre says that more than 8,753 of the world's 80,000-100,000 tree species could be lost forever.

Logging activities, the use of timber for fuel, uncontrolled forest fires and the expansion of human settlements are cited as the main reasons for the crisis.

The researchers say that more than three-quarters of the trees at risk are not subject to any conservation measures.

'Our worst nightmare'

Dr Steve Howard of the World Wide Fund for Nature, which part-funded the study, says the findings make for alarming reading.

"With 77 species already extinct, this report has now confirmed our worst nightmare," he said.

[ image: Logging is said to be too extensive in some countries]
Logging is said to be too extensive in some countries
Dr Howard appealed for urgent action to be taken at the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests in Geneva this week.

"The governments gathering this week must now realise the sense of urgency to increase forest protection, eliminate illegal logging and improve forest management," he said.

The report says that the situation is so bad that there are several species with just one tree left, such as China's single remaining Carpinus Putoensis which survives fenced off at the edge of a sparse forest.

Conservationists have also warned most living species are dependent for their survival on trees, particularly in tropical forests - which are home to 90% of the world's species.

Sorbus threatened in UK

The report, the culmination of a three-year project, says 11 tree species in the UK face extinction.

The varieties threatened in the UK are all from the Sorbus group.

They include Ley's Whitebeam - with only 16 individuals surviving in two sites in Breconshire.

Another endangered species is Sorbus Wilmottiana, which has only 20 trees clinging on in the Avon Gorge.

Most of the threatened Sorbus trees have a reproductive system unique in the UK, spreading seeds which are identical clones to the mother plant.

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