Archive for ‘Plants’

Over 25% of flowers face extinction – many before they are even discovered

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The giant carnivorous plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii, is under threat of extinction - along with 25% of all others on earth

The giant carnivorous plant, Nepenthes attenboroughii, is under threat of extinction - along with 25% of all others on earth

Scientists say human activity could spell end for a quarter of all flowering plants, with huge impact on food chain

More than one-in-four of all flowering plants are under threat of extinction according to the latest report to confirm the ongoing destruction of much of the natural world by human activity.

As a result, many of nature’s most colourful specimens could be lost to the world before scientists even discover them.

One-in-five of all mammals, nearly one-in-three amphibians and one-in-eight birds are vulnerable to being wiped out completely.

The researchers started by carrying out an independent review of how many flowering plants – which make up most of the plant kingdom – exist. The team calculated that there is another 10-20%, which has still to be officially discovered.

The second stage was to assess the level of threats from habitat loss due to clearing land for planting crops or trees, development, or indirect causes such as falling groundwater levels and pollution.

A study published in the journal Endangered Species Research in 2008, which estimated that one-in-five known species were vulnerable to extinction.

The warning comes as there is growing international recognition of the value of the natural world to humans in providing ecosystem services, from flood protection and medicines to spiritual spaces and enjoyment.

“Plants are the basis for much of life on earth with virtually all other species depending on them; if you get rid of those you get rid of a lot of the things above them,” David Roberts, at the University of Kent added.

Source: Over 25% of flowers face extinction – many before they are even discovered -

Date: 07 July 2010

Conservationists warn of hay meadow decline

Monday, June 28th, 2010

“Constable? Turner? Give me a hay meadow any day,” says Tony Bullough as we get our first glimpse of New House Farm.

And the National Trust warden has a point – the fields surrounding this small farm are a glorious sight.

Perched in a small valley near the village of Malham, in the Yorkshire Dales, the meadows provide a blaze of colour in the more typical green of the rural landscape.

Yellow buttercups mingle with pink clover and red sorrel flowers, all scattered in amongst a seemingly endless number of grass species.

Pollen-laden bumblebees buzz from flower to flower, dodging fluttering butterflies; curlews and lapwings soar overhead.

Traditional hay meadows like this one used to be the mainstay of rural Britain.

The grass and flower-packed fields were set aside and left to grow from spring to mid-summer, before being cropped and then dried out to provide fodder for livestock during the harsh winter months.

But as farming methods have changed and intensified, these pretty meadows have all but vanished from the face of the countryside.

Ecologist Professor John Rodwell says: “Over England and Wales, the last reliable overall survey showed us that in the last century we have lost about 97% of the hay meadows that we had.”

This study was carried out in the 1980s, and more recent surveys have revealed that the decline has been continuing around the whole of the UK, he explains.

“We’ve only got a tiny fraction left now – agriculture is a different sort of operation now,” he adds.

We head next door to Lee Gate Farm to meet Frank Carr.

This farm has been in his family since 1927.

“When I was a boy, all our meadows were the same as those that you’ve seen,” he says. “But as time has gone on, progress and lack of staff has meant that we have had to move with the times.”

Green silage fields have replaced the traditional hay meadows.

These fields contain just a few grass species, such as sturdy rye, which is grown, then cut and fermented to provide a wet feed for livestock.

Silage fields like these are a more economically viable option for modern farmers, says Mr Carr.

“Hay time involves much more manual work and a lot more people,” he explains. “With silage making, you can use much bigger machinery and do a lot in a little time.”

The success of the crop is also less dependent on weather.

“Hay time depends on a good five days of good weather, whereas with silage, if you have 24 hours of good weather you can get a good crop in,” he adds.

Wildlife losses

But the loss of hay meadows is having a worrying impact on biodiversity, says Professor Rodwell.

“When you shift to a more intensive form of agriculture, first of all the diversity drops. Then the differences from field to field – the particularity of the place – is lost, every field looks like every other.

“And then all of the other associated organisms – the butterflies, the bees, birds – they seem to decline too.”

It is also extremely difficult to “turn back the clock” once a hay meadow has been transformed into a more uniform pasture.

“Once a hay meadow is gone, it’s gone,” he says.

Organisations like the National Trust and Natural England want to safeguard the last few remaining hay meadows.

Pete Brash, an ecologist from the National Trust, says: “We want to keep the last few in as good a condition as possible – it is really important to conserve them as they are incredibly important for wildlife and they also have a huge cultural significance.”

The National Trust has been purchasing farms and hay meadows, such as New House Farm, through auctions to maintain and protect them where possible.

Farmers throughout the UK are also offered incentives to protect their hay meadows.

Dr Richard Jefferson, a senior specialist from Natural England, said: “We have been notifying the best ones as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) through the Countryside and Wildlife Act (in Northern Ireland they are designated as Areas of Special Scientific Interest). “And that actually gives them statutory protection, allowing us to control what actually happens on the site.”

Outside of this other hay meadows are also eligible for the environmental stewardship scheme.

“We are very dependent on these agri-evironment payments to provide this incentive, because [traditional hay meadows] have relatively low productivity compared with silage fields or other hay fields which receive artificial fertilizers.”

With schemes like these in place, conservation organisations hope the decline in hay meadows is slowing.

But they warn that we cannot be complacent, or hay meadows like those at New House Farm could risk becoming a hazy memory of rural summers past.

Source: Conservationists warn of hay meadow decline – BBC

Date: 28 June 2010

30,000 kinds of plants, 5,000 animals threatened with extinction, disappear one kind per hour

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Habitat destruction, over-exploitation of resources, environmental quality degradation and invasive species are causing the extinction of species “Disaster Quartet”, and human activity is the current large-scale loss of biological diversity, the main reason. At present, the world’s biological species is the rate per hour and one kind of disappearing, there are around 34,000 kinds of plants and more than 5200 kinds of animals threatened with extinction. This is from May 22 in Beijing at the “International Biodiversity Day” campaign on the public informed of.

Biodiversity is the formation of biological and ecological environment and the associated complex of the various ecological processes combined. Extinction of wild species, local extinction range, subspecies and ecocide are common forms of biodiversity loss. According to statistics, about 36.3% of species threatened with extinction, more than half of China’s mammal numbers have drastically declined.

At present, protection of biodiversity has attracted nationwide attention, as global co-operation, the main channels, including in situ and ex situ. Among them, the in situ conservation of biological diversity in the establishment of nature reserves is the most effective protection.

Source: 3万种植物5千种动物濒临灭绝 每小时消失1种 – xinhuanet, Science and Technology Daily

Date: 25 May 2010

Quarter of UK’s endangered species ‘declining despite government action’

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

The Government is part of an international treaty to stop global biodiversity loss by 2010 in order to protect hundreds of endangered species like the bumblebee, common toad and house sparrow.

But an official report, published quietly this week by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) discloses that 88 species are continuing to decline such as sky larks, pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, fen orchid, freshwater pearl mussel and black grouse.

Of the 370 species identified as under threat only half are stable or increasing meaning the rest are in decline or there is simply not enough data. This includes wild asparagus, great yellow bumblebee, basking shark, lady’s slipper orchid and capercaillie.

Since 1994 when the UK first drew up its ‘Biodiversity Action Plan’ to stop species loss, it is thought 19 species have gone extinct, mostly insects and lichens but also the greater mouse-eared bat and colourful Ivell’s sea anemone.

Conservationists have pointed out that other species which are not including in the original action plan are also suffering including hedgehogs, wildcats and cuckoos.

Source: Quarter of UK’s endangered species ‘declining despite government action’ – Telegraph

Date: 22 May 2010

Smallest waterlily saved from extinction

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

A UK-based scientist has saved the world’s smallest waterlily from extinction and is planning to repopulate it in its native home in Rwanda.

Carlos Magdalena used the stored seeds of the fragile flower to re-grow it at Kew Gardens, belonging to the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, outside London.

“I really feel happy and relieved when I managed to successfully grow the plant,” he told BBC News.

“I realized then that it wasn’t going to disappear forever.”

Source: Smallest waterlily saved from extinction -

Date: 19 May 2010

NGOs calls for a new international protection for medicinal plants

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Plantlife International and TRAFFIC are calling on Wednesday for governments to endorse a revised and updated Global Strategy for wild plant Conservation which aims to halt the continuing loss of the world’s plant diversity.

“The importance of conserving wild plant resources such as medicinal plants must not be ignored by the world’s governments,” says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group in a press release.

“Medicinal plants secure the livelihood and healthcare of thousands. They are also the key to the conservation of whole habitats which underpin healthy resilient ecosystems, and which can help combat serious problems we face such as soil erosion and flooding, as well as mitigate the effects of climate change,” he added.

The experts agreed that the significance of medicinal plants can’t be underestimated. Eighty percent of people in Africa use traditional medicine for primary healthcare, while 323,000 households in Nepal alone are involved in the collection of wild medicinal plants to sell for their livelihoods.

Addressing issues such as site management, rights over resources, encouraging cultivation, developing local resource centres, collecting information on medicinal plant markets and improving terms with traders are all key to stopping more plants becoming threatened with extinction under criteria for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which is registered as a trade mark.

“We are particularly concerned that, alongside measures to conserve forests and agriculture, the importance of sustaining wild-collected medicinal plants and their habitats is not forgotten,” says Roland Melisch, Global Programme Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC.

“The key to conserving medicinal plants lies in involving indigenous and local communities because they are the ones who know and value plant resources the most.” he explained.

Source: NGOs calls for a new international protection for medicinal plants -

Date: 19 May 2010

Third of plants and animals ‘at risk of extinction’

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

While Western countries are increasingly aware of the need to protect endangered species, the developing world’s appetite for raw materials is destroying vulnerable ecosystems. Population growth, pollution and the spread of Western-style consumption are also blamed for hitting plant and animal populations.

Species at risk include the fishing cat, as its wetland habitats in India, Pakistan and southeast Asia are converted for agriculture. Maritime ecosystems are under particular threat, with the south Asian river dolphin among the species whose numbers have plummeted due to damming and overfishing.

The latest report — the third edition of the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook — is based on data obtained from studies in more than 120 countries across the world.

It builds on recent work for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which showed that 21 per cent of all known mammals, 30 per cent of amphibians and 35 per cent of invertebrates are threatened with extinction.

Speaking in advance of the report, Ahmed Djoghlaf, who heads the Convention on Biological Diversity, said that countries had failed to honour pledges to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.

He said:

“The magnitude of the damage [to ecosystems] is much bigger than previously thought. The rate of extinction is currently running at 1,000 times the natural historical background rate of extinction.“

He added:

“It’s a problem if we continue this unsustainable pattern of production and consumption. If the 9 billion people predicted to be with us by 2050 were to have the same lifestyle as Americans, we would need five planets.“

Source: Third of plants and animals ‘at risk of extinction’ – Telegraph UK

Date: 9 May 2010

World needs ‘bailout plan’ for species loss: International Union for Conservation of Nature

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Facing what many scientists say is the sixth mass extinction in half-a-billion years, our planet urgently needs a “bailout plan” to protect its biodiversity, a top conservation group said Thursday.

Failure to stem the loss of animal and plant species will have dire consequences on human well-being, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned.

“The gap between the pressure on our natural resources and governments’ response to the deterioration is widening,”

said Bill Jackson, the group’s deputy director, calling for a 10-year strategy to reverse current trends.

By ignoring the urgent need for action we stand to pay a much higher price in the long term than the world can afford,”

he said in a statement.

A fifth of mammals, 30 percent of amphibians, 12 percent of known birds, and more than a quarter of reef-building corals — the livelihood cornerstone for 500 million people in coastal areas — face extinction, according to the IUCN’s benchmark Red List of Threatened Species.

“This year we have a one-off opportunity to really bring home to the world the importance of the need to save nature for all life on Earth,”

said Jane Smart, head of the IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group.

If we don’t come up with a big plan now, the planet will not survive,

she said.

The IUCN draws together more than 1,000 government and NGO organisations, and 11,000 volunteer scientists from about 160 countries.

Source: World needs ‘bailout plan’ for species loss: International Union for Conservation of Nature – France24

Date: 6 May 2010

Three of the thresholds for key environmental processes set by scientists have been exceeded

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Scientists have set thresholds for key environmental processes that, if crossed, could threaten Earth’s habitability. Ominously, three of the thresholds -  biodiversity loss, nitrogen pollution, and concentration of carbon dioxide – have already been exceeded.

Although climate change gets ample attention, species loss and nitrogen pollution exceed safe limits by greater degrees. Other environmental processes are also headed toward dangerous levels.

Promptly switching to low-carbon energy sources, curtailing land clearing and revolutionizing agricultural practices are crucial to making human life on Earth more sustainable.

Source: Boundaries for a Healthy Planet – Scientific American Magazine

Date: April 2010

2,300 Brazilian flora species in danger of extinction

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A study conducted by 175 scientists across 752 areas of the country that contain what is considered crucial biodiversity found that nearly 2,300 plant species are in danger of extinction. This is a dramatic rise from the Brazilian government’s 2008 estimates of only 472.

Source: Brazil flora risk greater than thought: study – India Environment Portal

Date: 1 July 2009

Results 1-10 of overall 10
REPORTS see all

Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change


Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers


Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis


Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010


Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report


Livestock's Climate Impact


Livestock & Sustainable Food


Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change


The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)


Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)



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