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The Gap Year Blog

Plants Top IUCN Red List As Most Endangered

4 Jul 2016 12:30 PM

Photo Credit: Flickr | brewbooks

It’s not necessarily the first thing that you would think of if somebody asked you to think of the most endangered species group. The first few thoughts would probably of animals, then perhaps birds, and then maybe fish. But most of the endangered species on the IUCN Red List are actually plants.

Photo Credit: Katie Schroeder, South Africa Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

Because, perhaps they are not often thought of as endangered, as we see so many different varieties of the species so constantly, it would not be immediately obvious that some are in dangerous decline. Predictably, the majority of those that are endangered in the plant species group are those that grow in the forest. Out of a potential 5919 species that are on the Endangered ICUN List, 2655 are plants, and 847 of those are found in forest habitats with the biggest reasons for their decline being ‘agriculture and aquaculture’, and ‘biological resource use’. These plants that are destroyed for agriculture use and taken up for resource use can be found in almost all areas of the world, demonstrating that nowhere in the world are people hugely careful with the plants that surround them.

It is also not hugely surprising to find that 892 of these species in decline are in South America. Due to the amount of deforestation and development that has been occurring there in the past decade, the forests have been diminished by logging and are still losing tree and plant numbers every day. There are species that are already lost and extinct and there are many species at a critical level of endangerment, just as many animal species are in the forests of the world are. However, just because these plants are on the Endangered list does not mean that there is no hope for them. There is a large chance that these plants can be saved and won’t become extinct, as because they have been flagged up as on their way to becoming critically endangered, hopefully more care will be taken so that this isn’t so. The danger that the forests face are becoming more and more publicised with the public being made more aware of these issues, so hopefully the Endangered species can be moved out of this list if work is done to protect them.

Photo Credit: Dicky Broadhurst, India NGO Journalism Internship

Plants can sometimes become forgotten about as they don’t do anything particularly exciting or cute that can be caught on camera. They don’t naturally endear themselves to us with fast pace television viewing, they are always nearby and so don’t seem all that exciting, and so it doesn’t tend to cross that many people’s minds that there is a possibility that they wouldn’t always be around. But plants are some of the easiest things to lose, as they can’t put up much of a fight or run away when their habitat is being ‘invaded’! It’s relatively simple to cut down a tree, or dig up the soil to make room for a building or development, which is why the numbers for endangered plants are so much higher than the other species groups. Plants are one of the most important species on our planet, they contribute to the life of everything else providing food, oxygen, and materials useful to us in our daily lives; thus we should be doing our very best to keep them from going into decline, instead of what is happening everyday around the world which seems to be the exact opposite.

Various projects worldwide allow volunteers to help prevent this decline, and work against the detrimental consequences of the past few decades of expansion, destruction and global consumer demand. There are always local wildlife and forestry projects that you could get involved with to help protect and conserve your local wildlife and plants, any help is welcomed to get some of these species off the Endangered list.

Worldwide environmental conservation projects also work to protect fauna biodiversity and the fragile ecosystems on which life is based. Projects such as Frontier’s Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation have volunteers also working on reforestation projects helping to re-vegetate previously cleared areas of jungles with endemic species once more. Other projects work closely with communities to work on sustainable agriculture projects which protect resources but also meet the needs of the local people.

By Ellie Cambridge

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!