Why Kew saves plants
All life on Earth depends on plants. They are the basis of ecosystems in which all animals, including humans, live, survive and grow. They also provide vital ecosystem services, such as producing the oxygen we breathe, removing carbon dioxide from the air and purifying water.
Kew's scientists travel to many countries where valuable ecosystems are under threat, such as this forest in Mozambique (Image: Andrew McRobb, RBG Kew)
In addition to providing us with food and supplying the building materials, clothes and medicines, plants also provide essential ecosystem services, such as producing the oxygen we breathe, removing carbon dioxide from the air and purifying water.
Scientists estimate the global value of nature’s services lies between £11–37 trillion (or US $18–61 trillion) each year, a figure comparable to the gross economic output of the entire globe.
Plants in peril
All is not well with Earth’s bountiful flora, however. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which appraised the condition of the world’s ecosystems between 2001 and 2005, concluded that humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively in the past 50 years than during any comparable period of time in our history.
The changes, made largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel, have resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth. Discover more about the different uses of plants and fungi.
Kew’s driving force
The IUCN publishes Red Lists outlining the conservation status of taxa on a global scale. Many of the entries in the Red List are based on Kew's research. Our work highlights plant species threatened with extinction, and promotes their conservation.
The greatest threats to plant species included on the Red Lists are habitat loss and degradation. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment predicts that as much as 20% of current grasslands and forests will be converted to other uses by 2050, as cities and agriculture expand. Additional threats come from the over-exploitation of natural resources by humans, the invasion of non-native plant species and climate change.
Concern for the Earth’s flora, in the face of such threats, drives Kew’s mission to inspire and deliver science-based plant conservation worldwide, enhancing the quality of life.
Get involved - Adopt a Seed, Save a Species
Without plants there could be no life on earth, and yet every day another four plant species face extinction. Too often when we hear these kind of statistics there is little that we can do as individuals, but thanks to the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and the Adopt a Seed, Save a Species campaign there is something that you can do to ensure the survival of a plant species.
Scientific Data & Research
- Biodiversity inventory and monitoring to conserve critically threatened lowland forest in Sumatra
- Monitoring and managing biodiversity loss in south-east Africa’s Montane ecosystems, promote education and awareness about plant diversity
- Ex-situ conservation, propagation and re-introduction of endemic, endangered and vulnerable plant species from the arid lands of Chile
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
The latest news and blogs
07 Mar 2014
William Milliken, Head of Kew's Tropical America team, examines the importance of Kew's collection of over seven million herbarium specimens, and how this resource is being used to tackle the global challenges of our time.
21 Feb 2014
André Schuiteman, senior researcher in orchids at Kew, relates the discovery by the intrepid Evelyn Cheesman of one of the very few blue-flowered epiphytic orchids, Dendrobium azureum, which he recently described as a new species.
14 Feb 2014
Madeleine Groves, the CITES Implementation Officer at Kew, describes how the application of science can help combat illegal wildlife trade.
08 Nov 2012
A new study from Kew suggests that Arabica coffee could be extinct in the wild within 70 years.
18 May 2010
Kew’s top propagation ‘code-breaker’, horticulturist Carlos Magdalena, has cracked the enigma of growing a rare species of African waterlily. The 'thermal’ lily (Nymphaea thermarum) is believed to be the smallest waterlily in the world, with pads that can be as little as 1 cm in diameter.