Two-Fifths Of The World’s Plants At Risk Of Extinction, Report Warns
A new report has warned that two-fifths of the plants on Earth are now at risk of extinction due to the ongoing destruction of the natural world.
Plants and fungi are crucial to the Earth’s delicate ecosystem, and we are now ‘losing the race against time’ to protect such species for the benefit of future generations.
A total of 210 scientists from 42 different countries highlighted this urgent issue in a landmark report in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.
The State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2020 study marked the very first time scientists had come together to give an important update on the status of both the world’s plants and fungi.
The findings, which have been published in an issue of Plants, People, Planet, emphasise the importance of both plants and fungi for mankind’s very existence; for food and energy as well as for mental and physical health.
Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Professor Alexandre Antonelli, said:
The data in this year’s report paint a picture of a world that has turned its back on the incredible potential of the plant and fungal kingdoms to address some of the biggest challenges we face.
We have particularly earmarked the gaps in our knowledge, the changes we are seeing, the species being named new to science and the shocking pace of biodiversity loss.
An estimated 140,000 (39.4%) of vascular plants were found to now face the threat of extinction; a significantly higher figure than the estimate given in Kew’s 2016 State of the World’s Plants report (21%).
This increased figure is believed to be due to more sophisticated conservation assessments, as well as new approaches that now account for plants and areas that were previously over or underrepresented.
The most worrying threat faced by plant life and fungi is the clearing away of natural habitats such as rainforest for agricultural purposes. However, climate change is also posing an increasing threat, destroying species on account of rising temperatures and extreme weather conditions such as drought.
Among the vulnerable species listed in this report are 723 species used for medicinal purposes, including plants used to treat circulatory disorders, skin diseases and coughs and colds, with overharvesting a problem in some parts of the world.
The report detailed how the best course of action is to now ‘fast track’ risk assessments so that crucial areas can be afforded better protection, and species can be conserved quickly.
In order to achieve this, it’s believed artificial intelligence (AI) could help identify priorities to be assessed for conservation, with new technology detecting if an area contains multiple species that haven’t yet been assessed, but are more likely to be under threat.
The report also identified the importance of accelerating the pace of species ID, enabling experts to find, identify, name and conserve plant and fungi species before its too late.
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CreditsRoyal Botanic Gardens Kew
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew