A Serious Toy for Tree Nerds
Global Tree Search is an online tool recently created by Botanic Gardens Conservation International with several partners, including Chicago’s own Morton Arboretum. It’s a sort of worldwide inventory of tree species and their original distribution. Here’s a link.
Before Global Tree Search was compiled, no one was sure just how many tree species there were. Now we know: 60,065.
Global Tree Search let’s you search tree species by country, and also countries by tree species. What country has the most native trees? Brazil, with 8,715. But how many trees are native to, say, Iceland? (Answer: just 6 – poor Iceland!)
On the other hand, let’s say you want to know the native range of the Olive tree (Olea europaea). You will find that the Olive’s range extends beyond the Mediterranean region as far north as Ukraine and all the way down the coast of East Africa to the tip of that continent. Burr Oaks (Quercus macrocarpa), however, are native only to the US and Canada.
Isn’t this fascinating? Of course it is. (If you don’t think it’s fascinating, then you are no tree nerd. Be gone!)
However, enabling tree nerds to dig for tree trivia is not the raison d’être of Global Tree Search. It’s serious purpose is to serve as a baseline on the conservation status of tree species around the world. This is important since at least 17% of tree species face the threat of extinction. There are 300 species with 50 or fewer individual trees still living in the wild.
As a website, Global Tree Search is pretty basic and utilitarian. However, it could play an important role in preserving endangered species of the trees that we love.