Alarming extinction rate in plants

A comprehensive, global analysis of modern extinction in plants reveals alarming numbers.

The project looked at more than 330,000 species and found that plants on islands and in the tropics were the most likely to be declared extinct. Trees, shrubs and other woody perennials had the highest probability of disappearing regardless of where they were located. The results were published on 10 June in Nature Ecology & Evolution (see reference).

Plant extinctions can impact other organisms (e.g. pollinators), ecosystems and human well-being, and must be understood for effective conservation planning.

Jurriaan de Vos, a phylogeneticist at the University of Basel in Switzerland comments in an interview for nature News that the extinction numbers of the study might still underestimate the problem. Some plant species are “functionally extinct”, and some plants may be present only in botanical gardens or in such small numbers in the wild that researchers don’t expect the population to survive. “You can decimate a population or reduce a population of a thousand down to one and the thing is still not extinct,” says de Vos. “But it doesn’t mean that it’s all ok.”

Nature 570, 148-149 (2019)
doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01810-6

Reference publication
Aelys M. Humphreys; Rafael Govaerts; Sarah Z. Ficinski; Eimear Nic Lughadha and Maria S. Vorontsova
Global dataset shows geography and life form predict modern plant extinction and rediscovery
Nature Ecol. Evol. (2019).