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Study: conifers under threat

A third of the world’s conifers, the biggest and longest-lived organisms on the planet, are at risk of extinction, with logging and disease the main threats, scientists said.

The study of more than 600 types of conifers – trees and shrubs including cedars, cypresses and firs – updates a “Red List” on which almost 21,000 of 70,000 species of animals and plants assessed in recent years are under threat.

“The overall picture is alarming,” said Jane Smart, head of the biodiversity conservation group of the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, grouping scientists, governments and environmental organizations.

The IUCN said in a report that 34 percent of conifers were at risk of extinction, up from 30 percent in the last assessment in 1998.

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Conifers are the largest and longest-lived species on the planet. The Bristlecone Pine can live 5,000 years and the Coast Redwood can grow as high as 110 meters (360 ft).

Craig Hilton-Taylor, manager of the Red List, which is updated twice a year, told Reuters that diseases were compounding existing threats from logging, pollution and forest clearance caused by a rising human population.

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