Plants are dying out at twice the speed of animals. We have already lost 571 species.

in nature •  2 months ago 

Plants are dying out

We have already lost 571 plants in about 250 years, or since Linnaeus published the Species Plantarum, in 1753. The extinction rate is twice that of mammals, amphibians and birds combined.

The Chilean crocus, Tecophilaea cyanocrocus, was rediscovered in 2001 after years of searching and categorizing by the IUCN as critically endangered. Photograph: Kew Gardens

An unexpected data. Certainly worrying. And that goes on to emphasize once again that the Anthropocene will be remembered as the time when biodiversity went into crisis. The confirmation, after the study published a few months ago by IPBES, comes from one of the most substantial researches ever carried out and published in Nature Ecology & Evolution last June 10th: seed plants are disappearing at a rate of almost 3 species a year, from 1900 to today. An extinction rate that is up to 500 times higher than would be expected in nature.

The project examined more than 330,000 species and found that the areas most affected so far are the islands and the tropical belt of the planet, and that trees, shrubs and other perennials have a high probability of disappearing regardless of where they are. Areas with high levels of biodiversity such as Madagascar, the Brazilian rainforests, India and South Africa are most at risk.

The research

The substantial work began in 1988 thanks to the botanist Rafaël Govaerts of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew of London, who began to compile a database of all known plant species starting from the botanists' Bible (and not only), that is the "Plantarum species" by Linnaeus. By studying the available scientific literature, the researcher has created a list of seed species considered extinct or allegedly extinct by scholars, that have since been rediscovered. The next step was the collaboration with the evolutionary biologist Aelys Humphreys of the University of Stockholm, which finally led to the calculation of species extinct in the wild: 571.

This is twice the number of mammals, kills and amphibians combined. And a figure that is four times greater than that recorded on the Red List of endangered species of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

The Saint Helena olive, Nesiota elliptica, first discovered in 1805. A sample of its DNA is kept in Kew’s DNA bank. Photograph: Kew Gardens

Plants underpin all life on Earth, they provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the worlds ecosystems. So plant extinction is bad news for all species.

said Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who was part of the team.

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How many new species are being discovered?

1,730 new species discovered in the single year of 2016.

So for those keeping score, 571 extinict in 250 years versus 1,730 new species discovered in a single year.

If one does a simple linear extrapolotion... which is never correct to do, but is quite popular among certain Environmental Groups... Let's see how these numbers compare:

571 / 250 = 2.284 loss per year


1730 * 250 = 432,500 gain per 250 years

So... No, the Earth is not currently experiencing a Great Dying due to evil hummans and their awful Industrial Revolution.

Sorry but let me contradict you.

1,730 species were discovered in 2016, so what? This does not mean that those species were born in that year.
They probably already existed for thousands, if not millions, of years!

The 571 extinct species, on the other hand, will never come back.
This means that overall there has been a loss of plant species, not a gain.

If you want to bring data about the species born in that year then we can discuss it, but good luck whit that, because when you discover a new plant species it is very difficult to determine when it was born and consequently the data in this regard are very vague.

Since one can not prove a negative, your claim is not falsifiable and therefore unscientific. In order for a particular claim to be scientific, it needs to include the conditions under which that claim would be rendered incorrect.

Therefore, the claim that few of the 1,730 species are new rather than simply newly discovered has the same scientific weight as the claim presented that plant species are dying at the rate of about 2 or 3 per year.

It's important to note that plants evolve quickly. In fact, farming has modified plants genetically over the last few hundred years. And I don't mean the supposed GMO products. So, it's quite plausible that at least 2 or 3 new species of plant life have appeared on planet Earth over the last 250 years or so.

What we do know and can measure, is that the Earth is significantly greener than 50 years ago. Within all that new green plant life, it's quite likely that new and simultaneously undiscovered species are now thriving.

See, the point is that even your claim that new and undiscovered species are thriving is not scientific.

There is no scientific evidence in favor of this statement, therefore the whole discussion is based on conjectures and opinions.

As far as I'm concerned, knowing that the extinction of plant species goes on so fast worries me.

Actually, there is a way out of the conundrum...

The appropriate question is:

What is the rate of genetic change in plant life?

This question is still a bit broad for an answer, so one should ask:

What is the rate of genetic change in grasses or small short lived shrubs?

The answer should have the form of: Y new species per X generations and then we could have a discussion about something scientific as well as answer the question of extinct species versus new species.

Yep, that's the question.

Sadly I don't think we have an answer yet.

Actually never thought of plants dying out... I thought it was easy to preserver through seeds and botanic labs.. damn. This is a sad statistic.

The extinction of plants has always been less felt than that of animals (especially mammals). The problem is that the extinction of some plant species can bring more serious consequences on the ecosystem than that of many animals. We need to spread awareness on the problem.

Agreed, its less felt and therefore less talked about. I'll definitely spread the word!

A good article (and true).
Time moves so slowly for us humans, we don't see that Climate change is real (at least some people :-)
I think this will continue, for both plants and animals, for years to come.
There will be another Ice Age someday-maybe a long way off-but at that point the Earth will cleanse itself, and begin life anew (the only question is, will we still be around and, if so, will we have the technology to survive it?

This is all thanks to capitalism and the notion of unlimited consumption with utter disregard for our Earth. Living with a stupid race of people and following along with the dictated program is leading us all to our demise. Unfortunately people usually don't act until things are too late. As well, people around here have no regard for future generations.

This has to be the most ignorant, backward filthy society yet, filled with citizens who are jacked up on chemicals.

We the Indigenous Nations, have been stripped of our land, our home and now our home has been destroyed and desecrated so these greedy obese ones can collect more things so they can try and feel worthwhile because inside they are empty.

These people are like parasites with big brains that are rendered useless, a fucking fly has more intelligence than these clowns.

I agree. However the thought that usually humanity, when cornered, always finds a way reassures me.

Just think of the problem of the hole in the ozone: due to our activity (meaning the entirety of the industrialized countries) a problem has arisen which, if not solved immediately, would have brought catastrophic and irreversible consequences for all of us.

An effort was needed on the part of all the nations together to find a solution and start solving the problem and today, after almost fifty years, we can say that we have succeeded.

Here in Canada, the government just bought an oil pipeline that puts all our health at risk, if it goes through. There is no commitment to reduce fossil fuels admissions and in the USA, the leader there doesn't even believe in global warming even thought the effects of this are being seen all around the world.

Scientists have predicted that if we don't make drastic changes in our lifestyle and stop polluting our Earth, then we will not make it. The bee population is already at risk, and if they go, our food supply vanishes.

Unfortunately, the ones in power do not have our best interests in mind. The oil and gas companies, are destroying the planet and controlling the government. Hardly anyone recognizes the corruption and what is going on, let alone do anything about it.

The problem with destroying our Earth has not been solved. I myself have little faith that we will make it for much longer. I'm enjoying everyday while I can and living the best way I can, being thankful for what I have and being aware of the chemical world we live in, so I can protect myself.

Since colonization of the Indigenous, things have taken a drastic turn for the worst. No good values, beliefs or customs results in a sick and dysfunctional society, as we can see in the west, with poor health, childhood sexual abuse, and living in a toxic environment are all features in this created society, that has been constructed to enslave us and keeps us under strict control.

Since many just follow along with what they are told to do, it results in a sheep herd population who are each following one another off the cliff because of an inability to think critically and analyze the dangers that are up ahead. It's a very sad and unfortunate situation and it's difficult to make the best of it.

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Dear @eroif
The issue presented in your writing is very worrisome. The environment is responsible for the uninterrupted carbon dioxide emissions. Due to the mechanical civilization, the regime is not able to play a role in controlling the carbon. Environmental disturbances are failing to show a specific path. The rescue operation of extinct plants and animals is also inadequate. That's why everyone needs to come forward. thanks to everyone.

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