Geneva / Brussels (dpa) - More than half of Europe's only tree species is endangered according to an inventory of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

In addition to pests, diseases, alien species, unsustainable logging and urban sprawl are causes of the threat, the IUCN reported in Brussels.

She has studied the stocks of all 454 tree species known in Europe. 265 of them are not found in any other continent. Of these 265, 58 percent were threatened. 66 are already at the highest level of endangerment and thus extinction.

The IUCN divides endangered species into six categories: from "potentially endangered" to "endangered", "critically endangered", "endangered" and "extinct in nature" to "extinct". In total, she lists more than 28,000 animal and plant species worldwide as endangered.

In Germany, especially rowan (Sorbus) are threatened, said one of the authors, David Allen, the German Press Agency. "Most are threatened because the populations are small anyway or by transforming or weakening their habitats."

It also looks bad for the wild common horse chestnuts. Since 2017, they are considered "at risk", level two on the IUCN scale. The biggest threat is the fungus of the Balkan Mining Moth. It has spread from southeastern Europe across the continent since the 1980s and has few natural enemies. IUCN estimates that the number of wild horse-chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) in Europe is less than 10,000. Not included in this assessment are the trees in cities, parks and avenues.

The IUCN scientists also created new European Red Lists for molluscs, shrubs and mosses. More than a fifth of molluscs and mosses and almost half of all shrubs are threatened, according to the IUCN. This is mainly due to the destruction of the wild, introduced species, agricultural practices and climate change. Molluscs such as snails played a key role in the recycling of nutrients in the soil and were an important food source for birds and other animals.

"This report shows that the situation for many overlooked and underestimated species is precarious, species that are the backbone of the European ecosystem and contribute to a healthy planet," said Luc Bas, IUCN Director of the Europe Office. "We must limit the impact of humans on our ecosystems and make the protection of these species a priority."

IUCN to European Red List GENERAL

New list

IUCN Statement Red List General