The Kew Report recently reported that 21 percent of all plant species around the world are in danger of extinction. This number composes more than one in five of the 390,000 vascular plant species known around the globe.
The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens released the first annual report on the health of plant communities around the world. The report took 80 scientists more than a year to produce. Scientists around the world are being asked to come together to save tens of thousands of planet species from extinction.
In order to preserve species, biologists first have to know how many varieties of plant live in a given area. Conservation plans can then be developed on national and regional levels to preserve vital species.
Thousands of new plant species are discovered around the world each year. In 2015, biologists recorded 2,034 previously-unknown forms of plants. New varieties are first seen in the wild, in greenhouses, and now on social media. One of the largest meat-eating plants in the world, growing 5 feet high, was first identified on Facebook. This constant flow of new findings makes it challenging to create a comprehensive list of plant species in a given area.
"But there are still large parts of the world where very little is known about plants. Identification of these important plant areas is now critical. Similarly, we still only know a fraction of the genetic diversity of plants and whole-genome sequences are currently available for just 139 species of vascular plants. Activity in this area needs to speed up," said Steve Bachman of RBG Kew.
Plants not only serve as food for human populations, but can provide essential links in the pollination cycle. Around 80 percent of people around the world also use plants as a regular supply of medicine. Many of the species now threatened with extinction could upset this vital resource for health care.
In order to preserve species, local governments and organizations need to develop plans to utilize plants in a sustainable fashion. The challenge is to find methods which allow human use while still protecting the species for future generations.
Early planning in areas like Ethiopia, where climate change threatens that nation's coffee crops, is essential to saving the biodiversity of plants, the study concludes.
The Kew Report may be read in full at on the organization's website.