Many animal populations around the world are struggling and people are mostly to blame. Species are declining because of all sorts of things including changes in land and sea use, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.
Like many animal species, plants are also struggling to adapt to a human-dominated world. Plants provide the planet with food, oxygen, and energy, and are used to produce fibers, building materials, and medicines. Even though plants are easier and cheaper to protect, they are often overlooked in conservation efforts.
According to a paper recently published in the journal Trends in Plant Science, preventing all future land plant extinctions across the globe is possible with the right approaches. The author of the paper, Richard Corlett of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in China, writes that “if zero extinction is potentially achievable for plants, a less ambitious target would be inexcusable.”
According to the paper, one big barrier in plant conservation is the lack of trained specialists, especially in tropical areas where there is a backlog of unidentified species. It’s likely that many “dark extinctions,” which is when species slip away without us knowing they existed, have already occurred.
Another roadblock in preventing plant extinctions is information access, which can be solved by building an online “metaherbarium.” This collaborative database would link digitized records from herbarium specimens with photographs, status assessments, and recovery plans.
Finally, the creation of “microreserves” – which are tiny pieces of protected land designed to get around space constraints – would further contribute to effective conservation of targeted plant species.
Zero plant extinctions should be the goal.
Photo, posted May 16, 2008, courtesy of Andrew Otto via Flickr.