40% of world’s plant species at risk of extinction: Report

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New Delhi (NVI): About 40 per cent of the world’s plant species are facing the risk of extinction, as a result of the destruction of the nature, according to a new report.

The State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2020 report, led by the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), Kew, was the result of an international collaboration of 210 scientists from 42 countries who analyzed the health of thousands of species.

The researchers looked at how people are interacting with plants, how plants and fungi are being used, and what opportunities people are missing.

Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said that, “The fact that 40 percent of plant species are at risk paints a very worrying picture of risk and urgent need for action.”

“We are also losing the race against time, species are probably disappearing faster than we can find and name, and many of them could hold important clues for solving many of the pressing challenges of medicine and perhaps even some of the emerging or current pandemics,” he added

The report highlights that plants are crucial to sustaining life as they provide food, medicine, raw materials, fuel and food. And yet, the report notes, “Never before has the biosphere, the thin layer of life we call home, been under such intensive and urgent threat.”

“Deforestation rates have soared as we have cleared land to feed ever-more people, global emissions are disrupting the climate system, new pathogens threaten our crops and our health, illegal trade has eradicated entire plant populations, and non-native species are outcompeting local floras. Biodiversity is being lost – locally, regionally and globally,” it added.

The researchers also believe that the primary threat to plant species is the destruction of wild habitat for agricultural land.

Moreover, the report also noted that scientists are racing against the clock to rescue plant and fungi species and they are also working to figure out how to leverage plants and fungi to combat the climate crisis and food insecurity.

Earlier in 2016, Kew issued its first report that found 20 percent of plant species were at risk. That number has doubled in just four years.

However, that does not mean that twice as many plant species are at risk. Instead, the huge jump in percentage is due to advances in assessments that now make a more accurate account for plants that were over- or underrepresented in the 2016 report.

Furthermore, the scientists involved in the research noted that more than 4,000 plant and fungi species were discovered last year. These plants are an untapped resource that holds tremendous promise as food, medicine and biofuels, as per the report. Some of the new species discovered include members of the onion family, plants similar to spinach, and relatives of the staple crop cassava.

Around the world, billions depend on herbal medicines as their primary source of healthcare, the report said, adding that, 723 species that are used medicinally are already threatened with extinction.

“We would not be able to survive without plants and fungi. All life depends on them, and it is really time to open the treasure chest. Every time we lose a species, we lose an opportunity for humankind,” Antonelli said.