The world’s first global assessment of plants warns that one in five of the world’s plant species is at risk for extinction, adding to existing concerns about the future of food supplies. However, the report also found that 2,000 new plant species are discovered each year, putting a thin silver lining on the bad news.
The breakthrough report by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew reveals that there are currently some 390,000 species of known plants, although people only use around 30,000 of them (mostly for medicinal applications). The findings also indicate that over 5,000 plant species have hopped the borders of their native land and become invasive, causing billions of dollars of damage each year.
Of the plant species under threat of extinction, most of those are in danger due to habitat loss. The report suggests 31 percent of the threat comes from natural habitat destroyed for farming, while another 21 percent is lost to the timber industry, and 13 percent for building construction and other infrastructure projects. Climate change is estimated to be a lesser threat, contributing to around four percent of the threat.
Prof Kathy Willis, director of science at Kew, finds hope in the positive aspects of the report’s results, namely in the discovery of so many new species each year. “I find that really encouraging and exciting,” she said. “We are still finding new species of trees, new species of food: five new species of onion were found last year, for example. There are huge areas of the world where we just don’t know what is growing there. They may hold the key to the future of food.”
Via The Guardian
Images via Royal Botanic Gardens Kew