Thousands of undiscovered plant species face extinction

July 8, 2010 11:07 pm 

LOS ANGELES, July 8 — Thousands of rare flowering plant species worldwide may become extinct before scientists can even discover them, according to a new research.

The joint research by American and British scientists cited habitat loss and climate change as threats to the species.

They used novel methods to refine the estimate of total species for flowering plants, and calculate how many of those remain undiscovered.

Their findings were published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"Scientists have estimated that, overall, there could be between five million and 50 million species, but fewer than two million of these species have been discovered to date," said lead author Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, Britain, who received his doctorate from Duke University earlier this year.

Based on data from the online World Checklist of Selected Plant Families at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Britain, the scientists calculated that there are between 10 and 20 percent more undiscovered flowering plant species than previously estimated.

It is estimated that between 27 percent and 33 percent of all flowering plants will be threatened with extinction if taking into consideration of the number of species that are currently known to be threatened and those that are yet to be discovered, the researchers noted.

"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?" said co-author Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

This finding has "enormous conservation implications, as any as- yet-unknown species are likely to be overwhelmingly rare and threatened," Joppa said. (PNA/Xinhua)

ALM/ebp

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