- New report warns that three out of four undiscovered plants are at risk
According to a new report, humanity faces the loss of around half of all future medicines as many plants face extinction.
Almost half of all flowering plants on Earth are threatened: about 100,000.
Since most medicines are based on plant compounds, scientists estimate that because 45 percent of flowering plants are endangered, humans risk losing a large potential source of future medicines.
The findings are contained in The State of the World’s Plants and Fungi, a major report by Kew scientists.
Kew scientists also warn that many plants are becoming extinct before they have even been discovered. They estimate that three out of four plants not yet discovered by science are at risk.
Scientists estimate that humans risk losing a major source of future medicines, as 45 percent of flowering plants are at risk of extinction (File Image)
This is based on the estimate that of the 2,500 new plants discovered each year, on average, three quarters are immediately classified as at risk of extinction, suggesting that future discoveries will be equally threatened.
Conservation analyst Dr Matilda Brown said: “We’re looking at more than 100,000 (plant) species that are threatened – that’s more than the total number of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and all our vertebrates combined.”
“And when we consider that nine out of 10 of our medicines come from plants, what we potentially face is losing up to half of all our future medicines.” More than 200 scientists from 102 institutions in 30 countries around the world contributed to the Kew report.
Mycologists, those who study fungi, estimate that there are around 2.5 million species of fungi, of which only 155,000 have been catalogued.
The report also warned that an estimated three out of four undiscovered plants are at risk (File image)
Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Kew’s chief scientist, said: “We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the fungi on this planet.”
Fungi are also a rich potential source of useful drugs and compounds, including those that can help in industrial processes such as the breakdown of plastic.
The report says more than 59 percent of new plant and fungal species described in 2020 likely meet the Endangered criteria and 24 percent likely meet the Critically Endangered criteria.
The report highlights that even new types of fungi are being discovered in the UK.