Extinction threatens thousands of undiscovered plant species

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Washington, July 08 (ANI): Thousands of plant species, threatened with habitat loss and climate change, may become extinct before scientists can discover them, according to a three American and British researchers.

"Scientists have estimated that, overall, there could be between 5 million and 50 million species, but fewer than 2 million of these species have been discovered to date," lead author Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, U.K, said.

"Using novel methods, we were able to refine the estimate of total species for flowering plants, and calculate how many of those remain undiscovered," he added.

With the help of data from the online World Checklist of Selected Plant Families at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the scientists concluded that there are between 10 and 20 percent more undiscovered flowering plant species than it was estimated earlier.

The finding has "enormous conservation implications, as any as-yet-unknown species are likely to be overwhelmingly rare and threatened," Joppa said.

"If we take the number of species that are currently known to be threatened, and add to that those that are yet to be discovered, we can estimate that between 27 percent and 33 percent of all flowering plants will be threatened with extinction," co-author David Roberts of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent said.

"That percentage reflects the global impact of factors such as habitat loss. It may increase if you factor in other threats such as climate change," Joppa said.

"The timing couldn't be more perfect. The year 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. We wrote the paper to help answer the obvious questions: How much biodiversity is out there, and how many species will we lose before they are even discovered," co-author Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment said.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

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