After a year of research, more than 80 scientists have released the first annual State of the World's Plants report, which outlines the current knowledge on the diversity of the Earth's plants as well as the threats they face and current policies that deal with these threats.
"This is the first ever global assessment on the state of the world's plants," said Kathy Willis of the Royal Botanical Gardens, which helped create the report. "We already have a 'State of the World's ...birds, sea-turtles, forests, cities, mothers, fathers, children even antibiotics' but not plants."
"This report therefore provides the first step in filling this critical knowledge gap," she continued. "But to have effect, the findings must serve to galvanize the international scientific, conservation, business and governmental communities to work together to fill the knowledge gaps we've highlighted and expand international collaboration, partnerships and frameworks for plant conservation and use."
The report describes the diversity of plants on our planet, noting the estimated 391,00 vascular plants that are known, 369,000 of which are flowering plants. In addition, it describes newly discovered species including a new insect-eating plant of the sundew genus called Drosera magnifica.
"But there are still large parts of the world where very little is known about plants," said Steve Bachman of the Royal Botanical Gardens and strategic output leader for the report. "Identification of these important plant areas is now critical. Similarly, we still only know a fraction of the genetic diversity of plants and whole-genome sequences are currently available for just 139 species of vascular plants. Activity in this area needs to speed up."
Despite the wealth of plant species, approximately 21 percent of the world's plants are threated with extinction, and the report urges that continued monitoring is needed in order to determine whether this trend will continue or subside.
The team also describes the specific threats faced by plants, including climate change, reporting that the world's biomes have experienced a more than 10 percent change in land-cover type over the last decade due to the impacts of both land use and climate change. In addition, they focus on the benefits of creating climate-smart crops by focusing on those more resilient in the face of climate change, such as cassava and yams.
"Having proof that root crops like cassava and yams are among the climate-smart crops of the future for sub Saharan Africa is vital for informing policy and planning today," Willis said.
The full State of the World's Plants report can be viewed here.