According to the State of the World’s Plant and Fungi 2020 report, 39.4% (140,000 species) or roughly two-fifths of plants and fungi are at risk for extinction. That’s up 21% when compared to the same report just four years ago.
What may even be more alarming is that 723 plants that have applications in medicine are at risk. And considering discoveries are made every year, it’s very likely that more plants that have life-saving properties may become extinct.
One thing is clear, humanity needs to act fast before these species disappear forever.
What’s the Cause?
As you might have already guessed, the report has found that climate change plays a key role in their demise.
As temperatures rise around the world, some plants simply cannot cope with the changes. However, the temperature increase has lead to other problems.
Most notably is that droughts are much more likely. As I’m sure you know, plants need water to survive, just like humans, and the droughts are hitting some regions much harder than others. And a very dangerous effect of droughts is drying out plants.
Forest fires have become a serious problem in the last decade, and droughts are just making them that much easier to start.
We Must Diversify Our Plants and Fungi Usage
One of the biggest points highlighted by the report is how concentrated our plant and fungi usage is. While there are over 7,000 edible plants we could use to feed the growing population, we still only use a select few to do it.
The same applies when looking at other fields like medicine and energy (biofuel).
Diversifying our plant and fungi usage will go a long way to ensuring that more plants are protected from extinction. It will also help improve our knowledge and techniques in the agricultural sector.
However, farms are unlikely to embrace new crops on their own.