One third of tropical African flora may be facing extinction

Using Preliminary Automated Conservation Assessments, study shows more than 30 per cent of vascular plants potentially threatened with extinction

Cynorkis fastigiata
Cynorkis fastigiata observed near Ambanja, Madagascar by weevilknievel. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Despite their crucial importance for terrestrial ecosystems, most tropical plants lack extinction risk assessments. IUCN Red List assessments are generated species-by-species, requiring knowledge, reliable data and thus, time. In 2019, less than eight per cent of the estimated number of plant species worldwide had been assessed.

Preliminary Automated Conservation Assessments (PACA) may help the process along, as suggested by this paper, in which researchers used the RAINBIO dataset of tropical African plants to carry out a simultaneous extinction risk analysis of more than 22,000 vascular plant species in tropical Africa. The authors used GBIF-mediated data to filter out non-endemics with wide distributions outside the continent.

The final results of the PACA analysis based on both two IUCN Red List criteria placed more than 30 per cent of species in the "likely/potentially threatened" category—with highest proportion of these found in Ethiopia, West Africa, Central Tanzania and southern DR Congo.

Original paper

Stévart T, Dauby G, Lowry PP, Blach-Overgaard A, Droissart V, Harris DJ, Mackinder BA, Schatz GE, Sonké B, Sosef MSM, Svenning J-C, Wieringa JJ and Couvreur TLP (2019) A third of the tropical African flora is potentially threatened with extinction. Science Advances. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 5(11): eaax9444. Available at: