Fifth of world’s plants at threat of extinction

A global analysis led by scientists at Britain’s Kew Gardens has found that one in five of the world’s 380,000 plant species is under threat of extinction.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Wed 29 Sep 2010, 10:56 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:45 AM

Here are some details of how the analysis was carried out and some of its main findings:

The analysis, which took about five years, included about 7,000 plant species drawn from five major groups.

Researchers studied a random sample of some 1,500 species from the following plant groups:

· Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts)

· Pteridophytes (plants such as ferns that reproduce via spores)

· Gymnosperms (such as conifers and cycads)

· Monocotyledons (a major group of flowering plants including orchids, grasses and palms)

· Legumes (the pea and bean family)

The main findings of the study were:

· About one third of species (33 per cent) in the sample are insufficiently known to carry out a conservation assessment. The researchers said this demonstrated the scale of the task facing botanists and conservation scientists — many plants are so poorly known that it is unknown if they are endangered or not.

· More than a fifth of the sampled plant species (22 per cent) are classed as threatened.

· Plants are more threatened than birds, just as threatened as mammals, and less threatened than amphibians or corals. * Gymnosperms, the plant group including conifers and cycads, is the most threatened group.

· The most threatened habitat is tropical rainforest.

· Most threatened plant species are found in the tropics.

· The most threatening process is man-induced habitat loss, mostly the conversion of natural habitats for agriculture or livestock use.

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