The first global overview of planet Earth’s plant life has revealed a shocking 21% types of plant worldwide are at risk of extinction.
In total 391,000 types of plants are known to science, from tiny orchids to giant sequoia trees, according to the State of the World’s Plants report written by 80 experts led by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London.
The study reveals alarming implications for our biodiversity, and point towards an event similar to a mass extinction that could undermine agricultural viability with catastophic results.
“I think on the positive (in the report), we’re still discovering a lot of new plants. 2,000 new plant species a year on average. And we’re finding new plants for food, for fuel, for drugs. On the negative, we’re seeing a huge change in land cover type, mainly driven by agricultural activity. A little bit of climate change in there as well,” says the Royal Garden’s Director of Science Dr. Kathy J. Willis.
Experts claim that many parts of the planet are suffering from rapid changes, such as from the felling of tropical forests to make way for farms and cities.
“There are very, very few areas currently that are recognised for the important plants they contain. Most of our conservation areas are important bird areas for example. And we really do need to change that around, given how fundamental plants are to human wellbeing,” says Willis.