Not to be a total downer (see the uplifting post below on the state of the world’s rivers), but according to new research released this week, more than a fifth of the world’s plant species faces the threat of extinction, a trend with potentially catastrophic effects for life on Earth. Up until now, the earth’s mammals were thought to be more seriously imperiled by the risk of extinction but the study, entitled Sampled Red List Index for Plants, concludes that plants are just as threatened as mammals. The research provides a major baseline for plant conservation and is the first time that the true extent of the threat to the world’s estimated 380,000 plant species is known.
Why should we care about some trees and shrubs? Quite simply, because plants provide the foundation for most of the world’s ecosystems and are vital for providing food, clean water and soil, medicine and regulating our climate. And the reason for the demise of plants? You guessed it – humans. One of the greatest threats facing plants today, is the conversion of natural habitats for agriculture or livestock use. The report says that human activities (81 percent) far outweigh natural threats (19 percent) to plant biodiversity and are being fueled by agriculture, logging, plantations and livestock. And the most threatened habitat is tropical rainforest.