"Scientists have estimated that, overall, there could be between 5 million and 50 million species, but fewer than 2 million of these species have been discovered to date," says lead author Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, U.K., who received his doctorate from Duke University earlier this year. "Using novel methods, we were able to refine the estimate of total species for flowering plants, and calculate how many of those remain undiscovered."
Based on data from the online World Checklist of Selected Plant Families at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the scientists calculated that there are between 10 and 20 percent more undiscovered flowering plant species than previously estimated. This finding has "enormous conservation implications, as any as-yet-unknown species are likely to be overwhelmingly rare and threatened," Joppa says.
The new, more accurate estimate can be used to infer the proportion of all threatened species, says coauthor David Roberts of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent. "If we take the number of species that are currently known to be threatened, and add to that those that are yet to be discovered, we can estimate that between 27 percent and 33 percent of all flowering plants will be threatened with extinction," he says.
"That percentage reflects the global impact of factors such as habitat loss. It may increase if you factor in other threats such as climate change," Joppa adds.
"The timing couldn't be more perfect," says co-author Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. "The year 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. We wrote the paper to help answer the obvious questions: How much biodiversity is out there, and how many species will we lose before they are even discovered?"
Pimm was Joppa's faculty adviser for a Duke doctoral degree in 2010.
Tim Lucas | EurekAlert!
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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