Plants in danger
Many animal species are on the verge of extinction – worse still, many are now without a single representative on the planet to testify that they once existed. The latest UN report warns that nature is deteriorating faster than ever, with over 1 million plant and animal species at risk of disappearing completely.
The cause of the extinction of many animals is the same, the repeated erosion of their habitats. Similarly, 20% of the 300,000 plant species we know are also in danger of extinction. Intensive farming and livestock practices, unfettered urban development and pollution, have altered threequarters of the land surface, the UN report says, and are responsible for the ever-lengthening list of threatened vegetation.
It is incredibly difficult to assess which plant varieties are the most threatened at an individual level. Perhaps Artificial Intelligence and Big Data will become allies in the early detection of species in danger of extinction. Other initiatives, such as those by Umberto Pasti, an Italian philosopher and writer who has abandoned everything to save threatened plant species in his Moroccan garden, are a port in the storm for species in peril, but we need to do much more, for sure, to avoid the risk of extinction of our vegetation.
Seed banks, for their part, are an interesting tool for safeguarding plants outside their natural habitats. The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) aims to acquire 75% of seeds of threatened plant species by 2020, although there are recalcitrant seed types that cannot be conserved and which need continuous technological research if this ambitious objective is to be reached.
This gallery contains just a few of the plants in a critical state of conservation; unfortunately, there are many more. Only ambitious protection initiatives on the part of governments, private actors, and society as a whole, will be able to save the species in danger.
There are between 20,000 and 30,000 orchid species, but, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 80% of its varieties are in danger of extinction.
The cause of their decline is twofold: destruction of the natural ecosystem and, above all, the fact that they are admired so. Botanic gardens, and public and private collections, are often raided by criminals who traffic illegally in orchids, which are treasured by collectors due to their uniqueness and astonishing colors.
That coffee plants, the fruit of which is such a staple element of our daily routine, are threatened seems strange at first sight. But the fact is, most coffee species are in danger of disappearing over the coming decades. Of 124 known species, 75 are endangered (60%), according to criteria established by the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Just two species are used commercially and, of these, only a small part of their genetic variability is used, which is why the wild varieties are in such trouble.
Carnivorous plants are one of nature’s most remarkable varieties of vegetation – and yet little is known about them. Perhaps the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is the best known and easiest to find in botanic gardens. But its relatives in the wild are in danger of extinction due to exploitation by traders and destruction of their natural habitats.
One ‘flesh-eating’ plant which is difficult to spot is known as the Attenborough, named after the English naturalist David Attenborough. The plant’s size appears to have convinced it that it can feed off small mammals, such as rats or reptiles. Due to its very restricted habitat – confined to Mount Victoria in the province of Palawan in the central Philippines - we haven’t known about it for long, and its population is believed to be just a few hundred, justifying its place on the list of plants that could soon become extinct.
This beautiful plant, endemic in the tropical forests of the Philippines, can grow to 18 meters long. Its Latin name is Strongylodon macrobotrys, but it is commonly known as Jade Vine, Emerald Vine, or Turquoise Jade Vine, for its characteristic blue-green color.
A plant that lives near streams and is mainly pollinated by an indigenous bat of the region, the destruction of its habitat and the diminishing population of its pollinators are the main cause of its endangered status.
Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) grows in Sumatra and is known popularly in Indonesia as a corpse flower, due to the fetid odor of rotting meat it emits. It is the biggest unbranched flower on the planet. With only 1,000 examples left, it also features on the list of plants in danger of extinction. Palm oil plantations are the main cause of the declining numbers of this flower, whose fragility is accentuated by the fact that it is very slow to grow and bloom.
Fuente: El País, Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, ABC, National Geographic Sembrar100, Euronews,
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