Botanic Gardens Conservation International
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Theaceae - Tea, Timber and Trees

The Red List of Theaceae (December 2017) reveals that a third of the tea family is threatened with extinction.



Theaceae is an iconic family of woody plants with clear importance to humans as a source of drinks and timber. Equally, many species are coveted for their showy flowers, making them a horticultural favourite. The Red List of Theaceae contains IUCN Red List conservation assessments for 254 species of the Theaceae family.

A third of all species of Theaceae are threatened with extinction and a further 29% are considered Data Deficient, indicating a lack of information. There are two species that are already considered Extinct in the Wild, with the only remaining individuals found in ex situ collections, Franklinia alatamaha and Camellia amplexicaulis. The remaining 37% species are considered not threatened.

The centre of diversity for Theaceae is East Asia, with the largest number of species found in China and Viet Nam. These two countries also have the majority of the threatened Theaceae. Sri Lanka and Singapore have fewer species, but the highest proportion of threatened species.

Theaceae species are primarily threatened by habitat loss due to expansion of agricultural and urban areas. Logging is also a key threat as many Theaceae species are sought-after timbers. An increase in in situ protections is key to ensuring the survival of Theaceae species in the wild.

A survey of ex situ collections of Theaceae species indicates that 51% of threatened species are held in a collection. This falls short of the requirements of Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, which states that at least 75% of threatened species should be conserved ex situ. The majority of these threatened species occur in fewer than five ex situ collections, which is unlikely to represent the genetic diversity needed for restoration or reintroduction programmes.

The Red List of Theaceae provides information to prioritise conservation action to protect threatened Theaceae species from extinction. Equally it aims to inspire action to improve the conservation status of these species and promote the importance of this unique and interesting group of woody plants. 

BGCI has been working on Theaceae conservation projects in China, protecting Golden Camellias from over harvesting.

The Red List of Theaceae is the latest publication for the Global Tree Assessment, which aims to provide conservation assessments of all the world's tree species by 2020. For more information about this initiative, see the Global Tree Assessment website.

The Red List of Theaceae