The shocking number of plant species that have become extinct in the last 250 years has been revealed by a new study.
Experts discovered that 500 species – more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians registered as extinct – are no longer found on Earth.
Around two types of plants go out every year – although the true figure is likely to be even higher because plants may disappear before they are even discovered, the researchers said.
The shocking number of plant species that have become extinct in the last 250 years has been revealed by a new study. Pictured: the striped trinity, which has not been seen since it appeared in a field in Chicago in 1916
Scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the University of Stockholm analyzed all global plant extinction registers to arrive at the figure.
One plant – the striped trinity – has not been seen since it appeared in a field in Chicago in 1916.
Others include the sandalwood from Chile, a tree that grew on the Juan Fernandez Islands between Chile and Easter Island and that was heavily exploited because of its scent.
Another is the olive from St. Helena, first discovered in 1805 on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic.
One single older tree survived until 1994 and two were propagated from cuttings, but they succumbed to a termite attack and fungal infections in 2003.
The research brought together data from fieldwork, literature and herbarium samples.
It showed how many plant species are extinct, what they are, where they have disappeared and what lessons can be learned to stop future extinction.
The study found that 571 plant species have disappeared in the last two and a half centuries – four times more than the current list of extinct plants.
The figure is also more than twice the number of registered birds, mammals and amphibians, a combined total of 217 species.
Dr. Aelys M Humphreys, assistant professor at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences at the University of Stockholm, said: & # 39; Most people can name a mammal or bird that has died out in recent centuries, but few can find an extinct plant to mention.
& # 39; This study is the first time that we have an overview of what plants have already died out, where they have disappeared and how quickly this happens.
& # 39; We hear a lot about the number of species threatened with extinction, but these numbers are for plants that we have already lost, so give an unprecedented window on the extinction of plants in modern times. & # 39;
Experts discovered that 500 species are no longer found on Earth. Pictured: the sandalwood from Chile, a tree that grew on the Juan Fernandez Islands between Chile and Easter Island and that was heavily exploited because of its scent
The scientists discovered that plant extinction is no less than 500 times faster than & # 39; natural & # 39; background rates of extinction – the normal rate of loss in the history of the earth before human intervention.
Islands, tropical regions and areas with a Mediterranean climate were found to have the highest extinction.
The research suggested that the increase in plant extinction may be due to the same factors that are documented as threats to many surviving plants – land use change resulting in the fragmentation and destruction of native vegetation, especially restricted species.
Dr. Eimear Nic Lughadha, co-author and conservation scientist at Kew said: & # 39; Plants support all life on earth, they provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, and are the backbone of the world's ecosystems – so extinction of plants is bad news for all species.
& # 39; This new understanding of plant extinction will help us predict (and try to prevent) future extinction of plants, as well as other organisms.
& # 39; Millions of other species depend on plants for their survival, including humans, so if you know which plants we are losing and then return to protection programs that also target other organisms. & # 39;
In response to the research, Dr. Rob Salguero-Gomez, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford said: & nbsp; Plants support and provide essential resources for entire ecosystems around the world.
& # 39; However, much of the effort to quantify species loss globally has focused on charismatic species such as mammals and birds. Understanding how much, where and how plant species are lost is of the utmost importance, not only for ecologists, but also for human societies.
& # 39; We are directly dependent on plants for food, shade and building materials and indirectly for & # 39; ecosystem services & # 39; such as carbon fixation, oxygen creation and even improvement of human mental health by enjoying green spaces. & # 39;
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature, ecology and evolution.
WHAT CAN EXPERTS EXPECT FOR THE LOT OF PLANET PLANTS AND ANIMALS?
Nature is now in more trouble than ever in the history of humanity with extinction looming over a million species of plants and animals, experts say.
That is the most important finding of the first comprehensive United Nations (UN) report on biodiversity – the diversity of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat.
The report – published on May 6, 2019 – says that species are lost dozens or hundreds of times faster than in the past.
Many of the worst effects can be prevented by changing the way we grow food, produce energy, deal with climate change and remove waste, the report said.
The 39-page overview of the report highlighted five ways in which people reduce biodiversity:
– Changing forests, grasslands and other areas into farms, cities and other developments. The habitat loss leaves plants and animals homeless. Approximately three-quarters of the Earth's land, two-thirds of the oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely changed or lost, making it harder for species to survive, the report said.
– Overfishing the world's oceans. A third of the world's fish stocks are overfished.
– Allowing climate change by burning fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the land mammals in the world – with the exception of bats – and nearly a quarter of the birds have already severely affected their habitat due to global warming.
– Pollution of land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world's waters.
– allow invasive species to displace native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has increased by 70 percent since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 species of amphibians.
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