Global: Important study of world’s plants shows strength of UK science


A new study released yesterday at Kew Gardens shows that one fifth of the world’s plants are under threat of extinction. This huge body of work was released to coincide with The International Year of Biodiversity and the forthcoming United Nations’ Biodiversity Summit in Nagoya, Japan.

Scientists from Kew, the Natural History Museum, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have for the first time put a figure on the threat to the known 380,000 plant species. “This study confirms what we already suspected, that plants are under threat and the main cause is human induced habitat loss,” said Kew’s Director Professor Stephen Hopper.  

small green plant on rock

The tiny parsley fern (Anogramma ascensionis) was declared extinct in 2003 by IUCN,

but the exciting discovery of four plants in 2009 on a remote mountain ridge has given

conservationists hope for its future. © Reinhard Mischke

But while the world’s media crawl over the figures looking simultaneously for glimmers of hope and portents of doom, perhaps they are all missing one very important fact. Much of this work was completed by world renowned scientists and institutions in the UK and for that reason, among many others, we can be very proud. If we have the scientific knowledge and skill to complete a task like this, then surely we have the scientific skill to arrest and reverse global biodiversity decline (a dose of positive political will wouldn’t hurt either).

Hopper continued: “The 2020 biodiversity target that will be discussed in Nagoya is ambitious, but in a time of increasing loss of biodiversity it is entirely appropriate to scale up our efforts. Plants are the foundation of biodiversity and their significance in uncertain climatic, economic and political times has been overlooked for far too long.”

Plant Talk will look closely at the report in the coming days.

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