1. Agriculture World

Over 20,000 Plant Species to Go Extinct as Humans No-Longer Need Them

According to the study, which categorizes plant species worldwide, many more plant species are poised to "lose" rather than "win" on this human-dominated planet. According to the researchers, in a rapidly changing world, species may tolerate changing conditions, adapt, or migrate to new habitats. Species that benefit humanity may have an advantage in terms of survival.

Shivam Dwivedi
Picture of  a Forest
Picture of a Forest

Humans have left their mark on the planet. Climate change, global warming, rising sea temperatures, and extreme weather events are all manifestations of this impact. Scientists discovered that the majority of plant species, over 20,000, will become extinct due to their limited utility to humans in a study of over 80,000 plant species.

According to the study, which categorizes plant species worldwide, many more plant species are poised to "lose" rather than "win" on this human-dominated planet. According to the researchers, in a rapidly changing world, species may tolerate changing conditions, adapt, or migrate to new habitats. Species that benefit humanity may have an advantage in terms of survival.

"Those who are unable to tolerate, adapt, migrate, or prove useful will be the ultimate losers in the Anthropocene and may become extinct," according to the report. The study's findings were published in Plants People Planet as a paper, classifying a significant portion of plant species as winners or losers.

Survival of the Fittest

Naturalist Charles Darwin proposed in his theory of evolution that evolution works on the survival of the fittest. Individuals in a population, or community, are more likely to survive if they are genetically fit. According to a new study along the same lines, human choices now largely dictate environmental conditions across much of the globe, and as a result, species of plants and animals can survive or will become extinct.

Species that are fortunate enough to be directly or indirectly aided by human activities are likely to survive and can be thought of as "winners," while those that are pushed to ecological irrelevance or extinction by those same activities are the ultimate "losers" in evolutionary terms, according to Smithsonian researchers.

More Losers Than Winners

Researchers categorize 86,592 vascular plant species (a large group of plants with vascular tissue that transports water, nutrients, and other substances) into eight categories that describe their chances of survival. These categories include winners who are useful to humans and winners who are not, losers who are useful to humans and losers who are not, and currently neutral species.

"The results suggest that many more species are losers than winners at the moment and that if the tentative winners and potential losers follow their projected trajectories, losers will continue to vastly outnumber future winners," the paper stated.

According to John Kress, botany curator emeritus at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, who led the study, 86,592 species may sound like a large number, but it represents just under 30% of the nearly 300,000 known species of vascular plants.

Kress and Krupnick identified 20,293 plant species as losers, with the vast majority of those species identified as not useful to humans. In comparison, the researchers discovered only 6,913 winners, with all but 164 of those species having some human use.

"Plants must adapt to the environment that humans have created now and in the future, or they will become extinct." "Our findings suggest that future plant communities will be more homogeneous than those we have today," Gary Krupnick, head of the museum's plant conservation unit, said in a statement.

Changing climate and environmental conditions caused by human activity are set to set in motion several triggers that will be extremely difficult for plant and animal species to adapt to, implying more extinctions in the future. 

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