Thursday, May 19, 2016
Victoria's Green Matters - 19th May 2016
A recent ‘State of the World’s Plants’ report by experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, shows that there are 390,000 species of plants with more than 30,000 used by people.
But 20% of these plants are facing extinction. The greatest threat comes from farming where habitats are destroyed – cattle ranching and palm oil production, for example, account for 31% of the destruction with deforestation for timber accounting for another 21%. Construction of buildings and infrastructure destroy another 13% while climate change is a smaller factor at 4% but this is likely to grow. The full impact of these losses will probably not be felt for another 30 years as plants, especially trees, need a long time to produce offspring. One important crop that is already suffering, though, is coffee as rising temperatures make it impossible for the beans to grow and cause an increase in diseases in countries such as Ethiopia. Bananas have little genetic diversity, making them vulnerable to threats and wild relatives need to be found to breed new, robust varieties.
In contrast, there is good news as 2,000 new species of plants are discovered every year, raising hopes for new sources of food that are resistant to diseases and climate change.