Groundwork: Towards a global understanding of at-risk plants

While global assessments of extinction risks for birds, mammals, amphibians and other groups are available to help guide their conservation, no similar baseline has existed for plants, despite the fundamental role they play in the biosphere.

Data resources used via GBIF : 7,000 species
Cephalotaxus harringtonii

Cephalotaxus harringtonii by Fernando Lopez Anido via WikiMedia. Photo licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

While global assessments of extinction risks for birds, mammals, amphibians and other groups are available to help guide their conservation, no similar baseline has existed for plants, despite the fundamental role they play in the biosphere. The IUCN Sampled Red List Index unveiled here offers the first accurate view of how threatened plants are around the world.

Drawing on specimen collections from the world’s herbaria, including records accessed through GBIF, the authors assessed a 7,000-species sample from five major plant groups to represent the world’s nearly 380,000 described plant species. Reaching the conclusion that more than one in five plants already faces the threat of extinction - a risk that is generally twice as high in the tropics - the authors argue that the world cannot afford this scale of loss, and that we must all work together to conserve what we have.

Citations

Brummitt NA, Bachman SP, Griffiths-Lee J, Lutz M, Moat JF, Farjon A, Donaldson JS, Hilton-Taylor C, Meagher TR, Albuquerque S, Aletrari E, Andrews AK, Atchison G, Baloch E, Barlozzini B, Brunazzi A, Carretero J, Celesti M, Chadburn H, Cianfoni E, Cockel C, Coldwell V, Concetti B, Contu S, Crook V, Dyson P, Gardiner L, Ghanim N, Greene H, Groom A, Harker R, Hopkins D, Khela S, Lakeman-Fraser P, Lindon H, Lockwood H, Loftus C, Lombrici D, Lopez-Poveda L, Lyon J, Malcolm-Tompkins P, McGregor K, Moreno L, Murray L, Nazar K, Power E, Quiton Tuijtelaars M, Salter R, Segrott R, Thacker H, Thomas LJ, Tingvoll S, Watkinson G, Wojtaszekova K and Nic Lughadha EM (2015) Green Plants in the Red: A Baseline Global Assessment for the IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants. PLOS ONE. Public Library of Science (PLoS), e0135152. Available at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135152.

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