Endangered Species threatened endangered plant species

Published on May 20th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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Endangered Plant Species List — Saving Endangered Plants

Threat levels of endangered plants around the world. (click to enlarge)

We write about endangered species on here relatively often, but we generally focus on endangered animals. Of course, people relate more to animals than plants and are more touched by the thought of animal species disappearing forever than plant species disappearing forever, but I thought for this National Endangered Species Day I’d give a little attention to the plants.



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Plants are the basis of food chains. Plants are critical to all life on Earth and are a little underrated, I’d say. And there are a lot of them threatened with extinction.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (aka IUCN) — considered the most authoritative and comprehensive source for information on vulnerable, threatened, endangered, and critically endangered species — and the US Fish & Wildlife Service report a combined total of 9,322 endangered plant species. However, as I’ll discuss below, this figure is probably a gross underestimate and a recent, monumental study finds the number to be over 80,000. With rapid destruction of unique ecosystems from human development, farming, and climate change, I think we can only expect the list of endangered plant species (combined with newly-extinct plant species) to grow in coming years.

Endangered Plants Underestimated

While 9,322 may look like a pretty high number, researchers have noted that this is sure to be tremendous underestimate of the true list of endangered plant species. The fact is, we don’t have information on countless plant species, especially in tropical areas of the world where most plants live and where there is tremendous habit destruction.

A September 2010 study conducted by the Royal Botanic Gardens found that 22% of the approximately 380,000 known plant species (or about 83,600 plant species) are endangered. That’s approximately 9 times what the IUCN and US Fish & Wildlife currently have listed.

“This study confirms what we already suspected, that plants are under threat and the main cause is human induced habitat loss,” the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s Director, Professor Stephen Hopper, says.

“We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear – plants are the basis of all life on earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. All animal and bird life depends on them and so do we. Having the tools and knowledge to turn around loss of biodiversity is now more important than ever and the Sampled Red List Index for Plants gives conservationists and scientists one such tool.”

According to this updated study, based on species percentages, plants are “more threatened than birds, as threatened as mammals and less threatened than amphibians or corals.”

U.S. a World Leader in Endangered Plants?

The United States was once considered the world leader in endangered plant species. Though, this was mostly due to better research and scientific understanding of the issues in the United States. (However, it should be noted that the U.S. has an even higher rate of forest loss than Indonesia and Brazil and it is definitely still a problem in the U.S.)

The Royal Botanic Gardens report, though, as indicated in the threatened plants map at the top of the page, now shows South America, South Africa, Mexico, China, Australia, and Indonesia as the areas where plants are the most threatened.

Tropical rain forests are where plants are most threatened, the report found, due to habit loss that mostly results from “conversion of natural habitats for agriculture or livestock use.”

For much more information on any of this, visit the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens “Plants at Risk” webpage.

What You Can Do to Prevent Plant Extinctions

There are a handful of things you can clearly do to prevent plant extinctions (and prevent more plants from ending up on this humongous list), many of which we emphasize here on Planetsave every chance we get:

  1. Grow your own food as much as possible, buy local as much as possible, and eat vegetarian to cut down on deforestation;
  2. Help prevent global warming from escalating by greening your transport, greening your diet, and cutting the coal;
  3. Urge leading supermarkets and restaurants to not buy products related to deforestation or habitat destruction (and don’t buy products related to such things);
  4. Urge your representatives in government to fight global warming.

Really, that is what is most needed.

List of Officially Endangered Plants

If you want to see a comprehensive list of officially endangered plants, Earth’s Endangered Creatures provides one that is continually updated, based on data from the US Fish & Wildlife List of Endangered Species and the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species (the total number at the time of writing this, as mentioned above, is 9,322 and is actually a tremendous underestimate of the actual list).

Related Stories:

  1. Endangered Animal Watch (Update): Wolves, Tigers, Bats & Penguins
  2. Cerrado, Truly Precious Ecosystem, Under Threat {Take Action}
  3. National Endangered Species Day is May 20 {VIDEO}
  4. Endangered Species Act Under Attack in Congress, Innovative Twitter Campaign to the Rescue?
  5. Earth on the Brink of Sixth Mass Extinction

Map via Plants at Risk




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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



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