One in five of the world’s known plant species is under threat of extinction, according to the first global report on the earth’s flora.
Authors of the State of the World’s Plants, by London’s Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, recorded 390,000 known plant species and noted that humans have found uses for more than 30,000 of them.
Out of the species facing possible extinction, almost one-third (31%) is threatened by the destruction of their habitats to meet expanding demand for agricultural land, including the clearing of many of the world’s forests to make way for palm oil production or cattle farming. Demand for timber is jeopardizing 21% of endangered plant species, while construction is the cause of 13% of at-risk species, the report finds.
Researchers of the assessment hope their findings will provide a benchmark to track threats to the flora that sustains human life.
Professor Kathy Willis, director of science at Kew, told the Guardian she was “reasonably optimistic” that the report could help the world to address the threats to plant species.
“Plants provide us with everything — food, fuel, medicines, timber and they are incredibly important for our climate regulation. Without plants we would not be here. We are facing some devastating realities if we do not take stock and re-examine our priorities and efforts,” she said.
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