Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species

Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species

Almost 40% of global land plant species are very rare, and these species are most at risk for extinction as the climate continues to change, according to new research.

“When talking about global biodiversity, we had a good approximation of the total number of land plant species, but we didn’t have a real handle on how many there really are,” says lead author Brian Enquist, University of Arizona professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Researchers worked for 10 years to compile 20 million observational records of the world’s land plants. The result is the largest dataset on botanical biodiversity ever created. The researchers hope this information can help reduce loss of global biodiversity by informing strategic conservation action that includes consideration of the effects of climate change.

They found that there are about 435,000 unique land plant species on Earth.

Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant SpeciesA map of rare species hot spots around the globe. (Credit: Patrick R. Roehrdanz)

“That’s an important number to have, but it’s also just bookkeeping. What we really wanted to understand is the nature of that diversity and what will happen to this diversity in the future,” Enquist says. “Some species are found everywhere—they’re like the Starbucks of plant species. But others are very rare—think a small standalone café.”

Enquist and his team revealed that 36.5% of all land plant species are “exceedingly rare,” meaning they have been observed and recorded less than five times ever.

“According to ecological and evolutionary theory, we’d expect many species to be rare, but the actual observed number we found was actually pretty startling,” he says. “There are many more rare species than we expected.”

The researchers also found that rare species tend to cluster in a handful of hot spots, such as the Northern Andes in South America, Costa Rica, South Africa, Madagascar, and Southeast Asia. These regions, they found, remained climatologically stable as the world emerged from the last ice age, allowing such rare species to persist.

But just because these species enjoyed a relatively stable climate in the past doesn’t mean they’ll enjoy a stable future. The study also shows that these hot spots of very rare species are projected to experience a disproportionally high rate of future climatic changes and human disruption, Enquist says.

“We learned that in many of these regions, there’s increasing human activity such as agriculture, cities and towns, land use and clearing. So that’s not exactly the best of news,” he says. “If nothing is done, this all indicates that there will be a significant reduction in diversity—mainly in rare species—because their low numbers make them more prone to extinction.”

And it’s these rare species that science knows very little about.

By mapping where these rare species occur, “this work is better able to highlight the dual threats of climate change and human impact on the regions that harbor much of the world’s rare plant species and emphasizes the need for strategic conservation to protect these cradles of biodiversity,” says Patrick Roehrdanz a coauthor on the paper and managing scientist at Conservation International.

The findings appear in Science Advances.

Support for the research came from Conservation International and the National Science Foundation. The Spatial Planning for Area Conservation in Response to Climate Change project, which the Global Environment Facility funded, also contributed to the research.

Original Study

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

bright light from under small building light terraced rice fields under starry sky
Hot nights mess up rice’s internal clock
by Matt Shipman-NC State
New research clarifies how hot nights are curbing crop yields for rice.
A polar bear on a large mound of ice and snow
Climate change threatens the Arctic’s Last Ice Area
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
Parts of an Arctic region called the Last Ice Area are already showing a decline in summer sea ice, researchers report.
corn cob and leaves on ground
To sequester carbon, leave crop leftovers to rot?
by Ida Eriksen-U. Copenhagen
Plant materials that lie to rot in soil makes good compost and play a key role in sequestering carbon, research finds.
image
Trees are dying of thirst in the Western drought – here’s what’s going on inside their veins
by Daniel Johnson, Assistant Professor of Tree Physiology and Forest Ecology, University of Georgia
Like humans, trees need water to survive on hot, dry days, and they can survive for only short times under extreme heat…
image
Climate explained: how the IPCC reaches scientific consensus on climate change
by Rebecca Harris, Senior Lecturer in Climatology, Director, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania
When we say there’s a scientific consensus that human-produced greenhouse gases are causing climate change, what does…
Climate heat is changing Earth’s water cycle
by Tim Radford
Humans have begun to alter Earth’s water cycle, and not in a good way: expect later monsoon rains and thirstier…
Climate change: as mountain regions warm, hydroelectric power plants may be vulnerable
Climate change: as mountain regions warm, hydroelectric power plants may be vulnerable
by Simon Cook, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Change, University of Dundee
Around 27 million cubic metres of rock and glacier ice collapsed from Ronti Peak in the northern Indian Himalayas on…
Nuclear legacy is a costly headache for the future
by Paul Brown
How do you safely store spent nuclear waste? No-one knows. It’ll be a costly headache for our descendants.

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.