Maple Trees Globally at Risk of Extinction in the Wild

EarthzineArticles, Biodiversity, In-Depth, Original, Sections

Acer pictum ssp. taishakuense, VU. (Ikuyo Saeki)

Acer pictum ssp. taishakuense, VU. (Ikuyo Saeki)

There is no more spectacular sight in the autumn months than the flaming colors of the maple tree; leaves glowing in uniquely vivid shades of saffron, auburn and raspberry. Loved by gardeners for their ease of cultivation ‰ÛÒ and by many of us for the taste of maple syrup on pancakes ‰ÛÒ these unique trees are increasingly under threat in the wild.

A recent study led by the UK-based conservation organization 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 today, 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.”

Acer pycnanthum, VU. (Westonbirt Arboretum)

Acer pycnanthum, VU. (Westonbirt Arboretum)

The report published today “the Red List of Maples” has been produced by BGCI in the framework of the Global Trees Campaign ‰ÛÒ 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.

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

A Maple Tree Red List

The Red List of Maples was compiled by BGCI, based on information contributed by many experts around the world. Key home institutions of these botanists were: The Chinese Academy of Sciences; the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research, Canada; Westonbirt Arboretum, UK; the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and Quarryhill Botanical Garden, USA.

Copies of the Red List of Maples are available from BGCI and GTC and can be downloaded from the websites: and

About the Contributors

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is a membership organization linking botanic gardens in over 100 countries in a shared commitment to biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and environmental education. BGCI aims to mobilize botanic gardens and work with partners to secure plant diversity for the well-being of people and the planet. BGCI provides the Secretariat for the IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group. Further information is available at:

Acer triflorum, DD. (Yousheng Chen)

Acer triflorum, DD. (Yousheng Chen)

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was founded in 1903 and is the world’s oldest international conservation organization. It acts to conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, are based on sound science and take account of human needs. Further information is available at:

The Global Trees Campaign is a joint initiative between FFI and BGCI in partnership with a wide range of other organizations around the world. The aim of the Campaign is to save the world’s most threatened trees and the habitats in which they grow through the provision of information, delivery of conservation action and support for sustainable use. Further information is available at:

The IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group forms part of the Species Survival Commission’s volunteer network of over 7,000 volunteers working to stop the loss of plants, animals and their habitats. SSC is the largest of the six Commissions of IUCN (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature). It serves as the main source of advice to the Union and its members on the technical aspects of species conservation. The aims of the IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group are to promote and implement global red listing for trees and act in an advisory capacity to the Global Trees Campaign.

For Further Information


Belinda Hawkins,

Research and Communications Officer


Tel: (direct) 020 8332 5935

Tel: (switchboard) 020 8332 5953

Global Trees Campaign:

Georgina Magin


Tel (direct): 01223 579487

Tel (switchboard): 01223 571000