According to a new study, a third of tropical plant species in Africa are currently under the threat of extinction due to climate change occurrences. With so much focus on the many animal species that are under the same threat, plant endangerment is often overlooked. However, these plants especially are essential for up-keeping a multitude of the planet’s ecosystems, as they are a constant source of oxygen and food. Plants are also the base for a lot of medicines and materials used in our everyday lives that we often take for granted.
The Guardian reports that studies show 86% of mammals are on the Red List of critical endangerment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Comparatively, only 8% of all of Earth’s plant species are on the same list, however, when it comes to ecosystem maintenance, that percentage is already to high. Logging, mining, and extensively unnecessary agricultural industrialization is leading the cause.
The IUCN states that since the Industrial Revolution took over the planet, almost 600 species of plants have been wiped out completely, and that number is growing more rapidly everyday. Plants are often overlooked and not discussed when it comes to the climate action debate, generally, deforestation is the main issue at hand. While deforestation is one of the leading causes of the deterioration of our planet, plant endangerment poses and equal threat, it just doesn’t seem like it would.
In order for any sort of species to end up on the IUCN’s Red List, two main things need to be analyzed. They focus on population reduction, and habitat reduction for where the species is located/indigenous to. The IUCN has used those two factors to create an online computer algorithm to calculate and classify conservation status’ of certain species. This algorithm is what lead teams of conservationists to their conclusions about the massive amount of species endangered in Africa currently. Using this algorithm, researchers inputted over 20,000 plant species indigenous to Africa, and found that almost 7,000 of those species are under the threat of complete extinction.
“These species are falling into categories ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered. That means almost a third of the plant species examined might be threatened by extinction, a proportion expected to hold even if all tropical African species are considered. There is an extra 38% of species which we assess are geographically restricted, so they are rare, but for which no obvious threats for the moment are identified. If the human pressure increases, which is very likely in most parts of tropical Africa, they will be likely threatened in the very near future,” The Guardian reports.
Basically, there’s still a whole slew of plant species that aren’t accounted for when using this algorithm due to the fact that they’re so rare that they’re inaccessible to include in the data. However, it can easily be assumed that these species are under the same threatening level, especially since they’re already considered to be “rare” which is just a fancier word for endangered.
The data is suggesting that these species are in critical endangerment and the IUCN is collecting new data everyday in an attempt to determine which species are under the biggest threat and what regions need the highest level of conservation efforts. However, even when that data becomes conclusive, it’s important to note that real systematic climate action is the one true solution to reverse the extensive damage that has already been done.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.