“There are several reasons why [the tree species Boswellia papyifera] it is under threat,” explained co-author Frans Bongers, an ecologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
“The forests that remain are declining because the old individuals are dying continuously, and there there no new individuals coming into the system. That means that the forests are running out of trees.”
“In places like Oman and Yemen, it is being cut down systematically. Now, in Ethiopia, it is being cut down as land is being turned over to agriculture.”The small trees, which generally reach a height of no more than 5m (16ft), grow in steep, rocky habitats, providing cover for other plant species.
But now these last intact wild frankincense forests on Earth are under threat as prices have shot up in recent years with the global appetite for essential oils. Overharvesting has led to the trees dying off faster than they can replenish, putting the ancient resin trade at risk.
“(Frankincense) is something that is literally given by God to humanity, so if we don’t preserve it, if we don’t take care of it, if we don’t look after it, we will lose that,” said Shukri Ismail, Somaliland’s minister of environment and rural development.