Over the past 250 years we have almost 600 species of plants irrevocably extinct. In addition, they die twice as fast as mammals, birds and amphibians combined, in the same period, and nearly four times as many plants, according to a new paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. The rate of plant extinction is up to 500 times faster than natural extinction since the Industrial Revolution (18th and 19th century). The most lost plants were in the tropics and on islands, according to The Guardian. The researchers created a map that showed South Africa, Australia, Brazil, India, Madagascar and Hawaii as particular hotspots for plant extinction.
Do We Know How Many Plant Species Were Lost?
Even though, 571 extinctions of plants have been reported since 1753, a lot of plant species disappeared without anyone knowing about them, noted Aelys Humphreys, Ph.D., one of the researchers with the Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK and Stockholm University. She said this was the first time when a study provided information about an overview of what plants had already become extinct, where they had disappeared from and how quickly this was happening.
What’s Causing The Rapid Rate of Plant Extinction?
It is the reduction of the original areas that leads to the extinction of a number of plant species. However, it is not just that with nearly 8 billion people on Earth there is not just enough space for plants as without 8 billion people on Earth. Fragmentation of natural areas of greenery also has an impact on faster plant extinction. Yes, the main culprit is human activity like clear cutting forests for timber and converting land into fields for agriculture. Last month, a UN report said that one million of Earth’s eight million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction.
What Can We Do to Slow Down Native Plant Extinction?
Eimear Nic Lughadha, Ph.D., a member of research team at the Royal Botanic Gardens, said that plants underpin all life on Earth. They provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat. Millions of other species depend on plants for their survival, humans included. And, the extinction of one plant can harm other species, BBC reported.
The researchers recommended following steps to slow down plant extinctions: recording all plants in the world, preserving specimens, funding botanists and educating children to recognize local plants. Researchers could report whether non-indigenous plant species can, to some extent, replace the original flora and thus benefit the ecosystem.
Source: The Guardian, BBC, ecowatch.com/plants-extinction-rates-2638774174.html