Although there is a large number of plants that are at imminent danger of extinction around the world (one in five), many new plants are discovered each year. A new comprehensive report reveals this. According to the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew in London, however, there are many more plant species at risk than the number of new ones. Global warming, land-use changes, and invasive species are all factors that threaten the survival of plants. According to the Report, State of the World’s Plants 2016, international trade in endangered species is further threatening their long-term prospects. International legislation must be properly enforced. A comprehensive global study on plant species found that nearly one-fifth of all are in danger of disappearing. Image: taken from kew.org. The authors recommended that we take immediate action and ensure extra resources go to areas where there is greatest plant diversity. When the Report went to print, there were 391,000 different species of plants on Earth – 369,000 of them are flowering plants. The authors stated that this is the first time the study has taken into account all plants around the globe. Virtually all of the plant species have been decimated by habitat loss, such as mangroves or swamps. Climate change, diseases and pests are threatening thousands of species. Climate change and its impact on plant species. Scientists claim they have ample data about how climate change affects plant species in advanced economies such as Australia, North America Japan, Australia, New Zealand, North America and Japan. There are many areas in the rest the world where there is limited information. The Report says that over the past thirty years, changes to the climate have been evident at a scale and level of variability not seen for 850,000 years. Image adapted from www.wrc.org.za. Researchers have found that different seasons are being reported by researchers, with some even reporting earlier blooms. Numerous species have begun to migrate geographically, often into regions where they are too cold or too dry. They also found that turnover in plant communities in progressively-warming climates is changing. The Report states that “all but one world’s biomes experienced greater than 10% land-cover change type over the past decade because of the combined effects of climate change and land-use.” Invasive species and disease According to iucn.org, “Invasive alien specie is an animal, plant, or other organism introduced by man into areas out of their natural distribution range, where they establish and disperse, creating a negative effect on local ecosystems and species.” These alien species have invade large parts of our planet. Five thousand of all species are listed as invasive by global surveys. They are outpacing native species and spreading quickly. These invasive species can disrupt ecosystems and cause significant economic loss and job losses, as well as transforming land cover. The most successful invasive species are those that have the ability to survive in hostile environments. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, it took about PS million millions (or more) to remove Japanese Knotweed from London’s Olympic Park (Fallopia japonica / Reynoutria japonica). The RHS says that sixty of every 100 invading plant found in Britain are from horticulture. It is a crime to grow invasive species wild in the United Kingdom, United States and other European Union countries. Also, it is illegal to allow them to grow wild. According to the Report, countries in Africa, Central & South America are most at risk from plant diseases. However, very little research is currently being done. (Image: adapted from stateoftheworldsplants.com/report) Regarding invasive plant species, the Royal Horticultural Society makes the following comment: “Many naturalised species do not present a problem but some that spread and outcompete native species can threaten ecosystems, habitats or native species – resulting in environmental or economic damage.” “These are considered to be invasive either due to lack of natural control mechanisms (such as predators); rapid rate of spread (by seed or vegetatively) or suppression of other species (such as allelopathy – as with black walnut – or competition for resources).” Diseases are also damaging the survival status of many plant species. Every week, new diseases emerge around the globe. They are caused either by fungal, bacterial or viral pathogens. Although billions are spent each year on research to prevent or combat harmful diseases, the majority of that money goes to the protection of species in rich countries. Each year, new species of plants are discovered. Last year saw the discovery of 2 ,034 plant species. Gilbertiodendron maxima, which is a huge tree that can reach 147.6ft m) in height and weighs approximately 105 tons. It is native to Gabon in West Africa. Last year, the slipper orchid Selenipedium dodsonii from Northern Ecuador, which reaches more than 9 feet (3 meters) in height, was also found. There have been new types of shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants discovered. These include some species that are not yet known from horticultural families or food crops. (Image: adapted from stateoftheworldsplants.com/report) Botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew) discovered a new type of sweet potato last year, from the Ipomoea genus (Convolvulaceae family). This sweet potato appears to be immune to many diseases that currently affect commercial sweet potatoes crops. The new species could be used to develop disease-resistant plants in the future. A relative of the sugar apple (custard apple) was found in Malaysia/Indonesia. It can also be extracted as an essential oil, and sellers say it has healing properties. Concerning the new species of 2015,, Kew said: “2015 was an amazing year for Kew Science. They discovered and collected new species, and explored their evolutionary relationships and conservation. The year 2016 will be even more productive as Kew scientists continue to push the boundaries of discovery and work toward an exciting scientific vision. Plants are used for many purposes. Humans have used plants for thousands of years. They are used for food and medicinal purposes. People also smoke plants and use them to produce their genes. Since the beginning of time, humans have used plants to their advantage. The Royal Horticultural Society says that the relationship between people and plants is long-lasting. Plants are essential for human survival. They are used in many ways: we make soaps, medicines, textiles, furniture and tyres from them. The importance of plants is very much present in our daily lives.
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