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One-fifth of plants 'facing extinction'

29th September 2010

New research has claimed that more than one-fifth of the earth's plants are threatened with extinction, creating the risk that they could be removed from science textbooks and gardening books forever.

A groundbreaking study by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London's Natural History Museum and the International Union for Conservation of Nature attempted to establish the extent of the danger facing the world's 380,000 plant species.

The research found that 22 per cent of the species assessed can be classified as threatened, with gymnosperms - the group that contains plants such as conifers and cycads - being in the most danger.

In addition, the study revealed that the tropical rainforest is the planet's most threatened habitat, while man-induced damage such as clearance for agriculture or livestock use was cited as the process that causes the most harm to habitats.

Professor Stephen Hopper, director of Kew Gardens, commented: 'We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear - plants are the basis of all life on earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. All animal and bird life depends on them and so do we.'

Last week, Kew Gardens and the Missouri Botanical Garden announced that a new list of all known plant species will be created to support worldwide conservation efforts.
 

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