Global: Maples under threat in the wild


Maples span the forests of the northern hemisphere - with strongholds in Asia, Europe and North America - and are keystone species in these ecosystems. They attract millions who marvel at their autumn colours in the wild and draw equal numbers to parks and gardens around the world. But surprisingly for plants that are so easily cultivated - they are under threat.

maple in autumn colour by mike petty

Maples at Westonbirt © Mike Petty

maple in colour by mike petty A recent study led by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) has shown that nearly a third of all maple species are under threat of extinction in their native habitats. Of the 119 maple species assessed, 54 are considered at risk, and a further 29 species are likely to become threatened in the near future. As well as listing the conservation status of all known maple species, the report also provides for the first time, maps of the distribution of the threatened species - many of which are native to China.

“Urgent action is required to conserve the most threatened species, in particular the seven species that we know are reduced to just a handful of individual trees in the wild” said Sara Oldfield, Secretary General of BGCI and Chair of the Global Trees Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“The good news is that while many species are threatened in the wild, some of these species are common in cultivation. We are now aiming to use the knowledge, expertise and resources of gardens and arboreta that have collections of maples, such as the National Arboretum at Westonbirt, to address conservation problems on the ground.”

maple leaves by julie kendallThe report “the Red List of Maples” has been produced by BGCI in the framework of the Global Trees Campaign – a joint initiative between BGCI and Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The Global Trees Campaign has been adopted by Rotary International Britain and Ireland (RIBI) as a cause it will support for the coming year.

There are approximately 125 maples species in the family Aceraceae

 © Julie Kendall

BGCI, through the Global Trees Campaign, now plans to carry out a detailed assessment of maples in botanic gardens and arboreta world wide in order to prioritise conservation efforts. Restoring wild population using species propagated by botanic gardens is an urgent priority.

Download the full report from BGCI