Library Index » Science Encyclopedia » Plants - The American Chestnut Tree—making A Comeback?, Protection Of Plants Under The Endangered Species Act, Threatened And Endangered U.s. Plant Species

Plants - Threatened And Endangered Foreign Species Of Plants

iucn listed majority loss

As of March 2006 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed only three foreign species of plants as threatened or endangered as follows:

  • Guatemalan pinabete fir (Abies guatemalensis)—Threatened
  • Chilean false larch (Fitzroya cupressoides)—Threatened
  • Coast Rican jatropha (Jatropha costaricensis)—Endangered

The 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) was the first global assessment of plants, and was the result of over twenty years of study by botanists, conservation organizations, botanical gardens, and museums around the world. It revealed that 12.5%—one of every eight—of the world's plant species are in danger of extinction. In the United States, the figure is even higher, with 29% of the nation's 16,000 plant species threatened.

The IUCN also reported that the vast majority of plants at risk are extremely limited geographically; most are not found outside of their home nations, making these species particularly vulnerable to extinction. Many plant species known to have medicinal value are threatened, including many species in the yew family, a source of cancer-fighting compounds. The IUCN notes that the loss of each species causes a loss of genetic material that could be used to produce stronger, healthier crops for human and animal consumption.

The 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists 8,321 species of threatened plants. This is 70% of the 11,824 plants that have been examined. However, only 4% of plant species have been studied in sufficient detail to assess their status, and the actual number of threatened species is likely to be much higher.

The majority of IUCN-listed species are flowering plants, a diverse and well-studied group. In 2004 the IUCN reported that 7,796 flowering plants were threatened. Other IUCN-listed species include eighty true mosses, 140 ferns and allies, and 305 cycads. Habitat loss accounts at least in part for the threatened status of the vast majority of IUCN-listed plants

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