According to a study recently published in the journal Nature Plants, the best hope for the continued survival of endangered plants lies within botanical gardens.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge, Great Britain, found that the world’s botanic gardens, when put together, house 105,634 plant species. This amounts for abound 30 percent of the known plant species in the world. Those species represent 90 percent of all the currently known plant families and 41 percent of the threatened plant ones.
Scientists Determine That Botanical Gardens Protect Endangered Plants
During the survey, the researchers analyzed datasets that the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) had previously compiled. They then cross-referenced the list of the 350,699 known plant species with records from 1,116 botanic gardens. These represent about a third of the world’s botanic gardens.
The news, unfortunately, is not all good. Sixty percent of the plants collected came from temperate climates, while only 25 percent were from tropical regions. This was noted despite the fact that most plant species are from the tropics. The reason for that is seemingly simple. Most gardens are in temperate climates, and tropical plants do not grow well in such areas.
Also, while the gardens collectively house nearly half of the world’s endangered plant species, which make up about a fifth of plant species, only ten percent of their space goes to doing so. Botanical gardens have also done a poor job of collecting and documenting non-vascular plants.
These are plants like mosses and liverworts. They lack roots and stems and represent the oldest and most primitive plant lineages. Only about five percent of the existing non-vascular plants have been collected in botanic gardens.
The study team argues that botanical gardens represent the best hope of survival for threatened plant species. The gardens do, however, need to better coordinate and organize their efforts to increase the diversity of the plants being protected.
They especially need to add more tropical plants and non-vascular plants to their collections. Dr. Samuel Brockington, a researcher and curator at Cambridge University firmly believes that no plant species needs to go extinct, and they won’t, providing that their representatives are protected in a botanic garden.
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