According to researchers, now on the planet grows about 73 thousand species of trees. At the same time, nine thousand of them have not yet been discovered, and almost half of the species unknown to science are located in South America.
An international team of scientists, including 150 specialists, spent three years trying to estimate for the first time the total number of tree species on the planet. After compiling the largest databases and analysis using artificial intelligence and a supercomputer, the researchers concluded that there are about 73,000 species of trees on Earth today.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlights not only the richness of today’s terrestrial ecosystems, but also their vulnerability to human actions, from land use to global warming. And it is rare species that are most at risk. The findings will better inform national conservation organizations and develop strategies to conserve biodiversity.
There are currently about 73,000 species of trees on our planet
Information about many areas of our planet has long been limited. There have been field records and lists of species from specific regions but no one has yet attempted to summarize this scattered information. Now scientists have compiled a single database containing data on 40 million trees belonging to 64,000 species. Based on these results, the authors conducted a sophisticated statistical analysis using artificial intelligence and a supercomputer at Purdue University’s Advanced Computing and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Indiana, USA).
To get a reliable estimate of biodiversity, it was necessary to pay special attention to the number of rare species known today. The scientists considered as such those species that were found once, twice or three times during field studies. Most tree species are quite numerous, but the fact that there are species that have been recorded only once suggests that, in fact, there are many more.
The analysis showed that there are now about 73,000 species of trees on our planet – 14 percent more than is known today. Scientists applied the new approach not only to the global database, but also to continental databases to calculate the number of unknown species in certain regions.
It turned out that of the nine thousand yet undiscovered species, about 40% grow in South America, mostly in the Amazon and the Andes. Approximately three thousand of them are rare endemics of the continent, which can be found in tropical and subtropical areas. Rich biodiversity is also characteristic of Oceania and Australia. In addition to the 6,700 species already known to grow there, scientists estimate there are 1,500 more to be discovered. Most of them are likely to be found in the tropical and subtropical rainforests of northeastern Australia and the islands of the Pacific.