(ORDO NEWS) — According to researchers, there are now about 73 thousand species of trees growing on the planet. 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 150 scientists has spent three years trying to estimate the total number of tree species on the planet for the first time. After compiling the largest databases and analysis carried out using artificial intelligence and a supercomputer, the researchers concluded that there are about 73,000 species of trees growing on Earth today.
Highlights not only the richness of modern terrestrial ecosystems, but also their vulnerability to human actions, from land use to global warming. It is the rare species that are most at risk. The data obtained will allow better informing national environmental organizations and developing strategies for biodiversity conservation.
For a long time, information about many territories of our planet remained limited. There were records of field observations and lists of species growing in specific regions, but no one has yet attempted to summarize this scattered information.
Now scientists have collected a single database containing data on 40 million trees belonging to 64,000 species. Based on these results, the authors of the work carried out a complex statistical analysis using artificial intelligence and a supercomputer from the Laboratory for Advanced Computing and Artificial Intelligence at Purdue University (Indiana, USA).
To get a reliable assessment of biodiversity, it was necessary to pay special attention to the number of rare species known today.
As such, scientists considered those species that were discovered one, two or three times during field research. 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 of them.
As the analysis showed, now about 73 thousand species of trees grow on our planet – 14% more than is known today. The scientists applied the new approach not only to the global database, but also to continental databases to count the number of unknown species in certain regions.
It turned out that out of nine thousand yet undiscovered species, about 40% grow in South America, mainly in the Amazon and the Andes. Approximately three thousand of them are rare endemics of the continent that can be found in tropical and subtropical regions.
Rich biodiversity is also characteristic of Oceania and Australia. In addition to the already known 6,700 species that grow there, scientists estimate that another 1,500 remain to be discovered. Most of them are likely to be found in the tropical and subtropical rainforests of northeast Australia and the Pacific Islands.
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