DATE: September 30, 2020
SNIP: Scientists say they are racing against time to name and describe new plants, before species go extinct.
Plants and fungi hold promise as future medicines, fuels and foods, according to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
But opportunities are being lost to use this “treasure chest of incredible diversity” as species vanish due to habitat destruction and climate change.
New estimates suggest two-fifths of the world’s plants are at risk of extinction.
The assessment of the State of the World’s Plants and Fungi is based on research from more than 200 scientists in 42 countries.
The report was released on the day of a United Nations summit, which will press for action from world leaders to address biodiversity loss.
“We’re losing the race against time because species are disappearing faster than we can find and name them. Many of them could hold important clues for solving some of the most pressing challenges of medicine and even perhaps of the emerging and current pandemics we are seeing today,” said director of science at Kew, Prof Alexandre Antonelli.
The scientists estimate that the extinction risk may be much higher than previously thought, with an estimated 140,000, or 39.4%, of vascular plants estimated to be threatened with extinction, compared with 21% in 2016.
They say the increased estimates are partly down to more sophisticated and accurate conservation assessments.