Plants under pressure – the drivers of threat
The results of our research show that human actions and activities pose the greatest threat to the future of plant diversity.
Our research shows that human-induced habitat loss is the main threat to plants today. Habitats with the greatest number of threatened plant species are being rapidly converted to agriculture or livestock use. Most of the threatened species identified in this study are restricted to very small areas and many are threatened by habitat destruction. The Millennium Ecosystem Assesment predicts that 10-20% of current grasslands and forests will be converted to other uses between now and 2050. This is mainly due to the expansion of agriculture, harvesting and the development of cities and infrastructure.
Human impact - threat to plant life 81%
Human impact threats include human induced activities that have an impact on the population of plant species in different habitats. Threats include:
- residential and commercial development and tourism
- commercial agriculture
- wood plantations
- logging and wood extraction
- mining and transportation
- human disturbances e.g. war and recreational activities
- harvesting (overexploitation) e.g. for food and medicine
- competition with invasive "alien" species
Natural events - threat to plant life 19%
Natural events include geological events and disasters that have an impact on the population of plant species in different habitats. Threats include:
- intrinsic factors e.g. limited dispersal, restricted range, poor reproduction
- natural disasters e.g. volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches and land slides.
- climate change e.g. a reduction in the areas with suitable climate for plant species to grow.
What plants do for us...
- They give us the food and oxygen that we need to survive.
- They help to regulate the climate.
- They are the primary producers for all terrestrial and almost all aquatic ecosystems.
Why do plants matter anyway?
All life depends on plants. Many vital systems and services will suffer if we continue to put pressure on the precious resource provided by plants.
Plants absorb almost 20% of fossil fuel emissions. This un-noticed ecosystem service will be greatly affected by impending land use change. Rapid, large-scale extinctions of plant species therefore have many knock-on effects on the status of other groups of species, such as mammals and birds, and to man.
Deforestation of tropical forest also accounts for 20% of global carbon emissions. A moratorium on forest destruction is key to reducing biodiversity loss and will also make a significant contribution to tackling climate change.
Pressures on biodiversity will only grow in the twenty-first century, especially through population and economic growth, and the additional effects of climate change and pollution. This is why we need to take action and start saving plants at risk today.
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