100,000 More Plants Than Previously Thought – endangered?

A new study reveals a far greater diversity of plants on earth than previously estimated. Writing in the latest Plant Talk magazine (published on 12 June), leading botanist and conservationist Dr David Bramwell calculates that there are around 422,000 species of flowering plants (termed Angiosperms) in the world. Until now, most scientists had worked from a much lower figure of some 270,000 or 320,000 species.

The increased estimate shows that there is an even more urgent need to complete the global inventory of plant diversity. Much of this botanical wealth is in parts of the world where species-rich tropical and Mediterranean habitats are disappearing the fastest.

Dr Bramwell said, “The plant kingdom is even richer than we thought. It is even more urgent to find the people to identify the species and classify them before it is too late.”

The increased tally does not make the loss of endangered species any less serious. Indeed, this new calculation indicates that many more species than previously thought are threatened with extinction. Using his new figures, Bramwell estimates that at least 94,000 plant species are under threat.

The new estimate greatly boosts the argument that more resources should be allocated to the classification and conservation of plant diversity. The world faces a declining community of taxonomists (the scientists who identify and classify plants), of people able to identify plants in nature and of those who can teach others how to do so. At the same time, the crisis of biodiversity loss is growing, not diminishing.

Commented Plant Talk editor Hugh Synge, “Botanical inventory is slowing down just at the time when it needs to be speeded up, when the loss of vegetation makes it ever more urgent.”

For more information, contact:

Dr David Bramwell, Spain
Tel: + 34 928 219582, Mobile: + 34 686 506307

Hugh Synge, London
Tel: office: 020 8785 0330, home: 020 8546 6725, Mobile: 07810 811672

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