DATE: September 27, 2019
SNIP: The conker tree has been put on the official extinction list.
Ravaged by moths and disease, the horse chestnut is now classified as vulnerable to extinction.
The tree is among more than 400 native European tree species assessed for their risk of extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
About half face disappearing from the natural landscape.
Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN Red List unit, described the findings as “alarming”.
“Trees are essential for life on Earth, and European trees in all their diversity are a source of food and shelter for countless animal species such as birds and squirrels, and play a key economic role,” he said.
Experts are now turning their attention to plants, with an assessment of all 454 tree species native to the continent.
The report found that 42% are threatened with extinction (assessed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered). Among endemic trees – those that don’t exist anywhere else on Earth – 58% are threatened. Species highlighted include the horse chestnut, which is declining across Europe, and most of almost 200 trees in the family that includes the rowan and mountain ash.
The report identified a wide range of threats, including pests and diseases, competition from invasive plants, deforestation, unsustainable logging, changes in land use and forest fires.
Luc Bas, director of IUCN’s European regional office, said human activities were causing tree population declines across Europe.