Study reveals mass plant extinction rate since Industrial Revolution

New
research suggests
that even by conservative efforts, the number
of plants that have gone extinct in the last three centuries is 500
times higher than before the industrial revolution, and the rate of
extinction is
skyrocketing. According to the survey, at least 571 plants have
become extinct since 1750, which should be a “frightening”
concern to anyone who eats or breathes.

“Plants underpin all life on Earth. They provide the oxygen we
breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of
the world’s ecosystems,” said study
author Eimear Nic Lughadha from the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
.

The scientists also believe that their confirmed list of 571
plants is only the tip of the iceberg. In most cases, it can take
years to declare a species officially extinct
because of the landscapes that have to be scoured for any last
survivors.

“How are you going to check the entirety of the Amazon for
your lost plant?” Maria Vorontsova, also from the Royal Botanic
Gardens, Kew,
told The Guardian.

Furthermore, there are thousands of species that are
functionally extinct, meaning there are so few remaining plants
that the chances of reproduction and survival are nearly — if not
entirely — impossible. Despite their conservative tally, the
researchers’ estimate is still four times higher than what is
officially recorded on the International Union for the Conservation
of Nature’s Red
List
.

“It is way more than we knew and way more than should have
gone extinct,” said Vorontsova. “It is frightening not just
because of the 571 number, but because I think that is a gross
underestimate.”

According to the United Nations, another
1 million species
are currently at risk of extinction. Many
scientists believe that extinction and biodiversity should be in
the news and keeping us up at night just as much as climate change, but
that it is often a less acknowledged, and less funded, crisis.

Financing and support for plants is especially challenging
within the conservation field, because they just aren’t as cute
as their endangered
animal
counterparts.

Scientists often collect and save DNA samples from extinct
plants in labs at places such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in
hopes that innovative discoveries could help save other plants or
one day bring back old ones.

Via
The Guardian

Image via Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Study reveals mass plant extinction rate since Industrial Revolution