A newly discovered species of tree found in the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania could be wiped out of our planet without conservation measures.

The tree, which grows up to 20 meters tall and bears white flowers, has already been categorized as endangered because of its restricted range.

Researchers still have to identify the kind of wildlife that depends on it, but the tree is likely pollinated by a species of beetle.

Andy Marshall, a researcher from the University of York's Department of Environment and Geography, discovered the tree during a survey of the forest that aimed to understand the environmental factors that affect the amount of carbon storage in the forest.

New tree species
The tree grows up to 20 meters tall and bears white flowers. It is categorized as endangered because of its restricted range. Andy Marshall

George Gosline, a botanist from Kew Gardens, recognized the tree as a new species related to a group previously believed to be restricted to western Africa. The discovery led to the recognition of three new species in the group.

Marshall said that, given the small population of the tree, it is crucial that it does not become isolated from other forests in the region as a result of increasing agriculture.

He explained that small forests have to be connected to others to ensure the dispersal of seeds and species are able to adapt to climate change.

The Usambara Mountains comprise the easternmost ranges of the Eastern Arc Mountains, a chain of mountains in Kenya and Tanzania. The size of forests in these mountains have been dramatically reduced over the past hundred years and now face threats from global warming.

The researchers said conservation methods are crucial to maintain or increase tree population and these conservation efforts need to start before further damage occurs.

"The tree is in a particularly beautiful part of the world - up high in the clouded mountains and surrounded by tea estates. Now that we know it exists, we have to look at ways to protect it,” Marshall said.

A research project spearheaded by Marshall in the Magombera Forest in Tanzania should shed more light on the best methods that can be used to protect these rare species of tree. The project involves working with locals to develop new methods to restore the forests and reduce wildfire and invasive fees that can pose threat to the trees.

Marshall and colleagues described the new tree species in the Kew Bulletin on July 2.