New tool offers hope in the fight against plant dieback

New tool offers hope in the fight against plant dieback

Combating and Restoring Species Threats – Country Example. Photo credit: IUCN

In a powerful speech at the opening of COP15, the UN Conference on Biological Diversity, in Montreal, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “We are waging a war on nature” and called for “a peace pact with nature”.

Shifting crop, livestock and timber production to sustainable practices would mitigate the top drivers of extinction risk for terrestrial plant species in different ecosystems, according to an article published in Conservation Biology. When we know this, we can begin to make this “peace pact with nature”.

The study used data from Brazil, South Africa and Norway in a novel metric to identify ways to reduce the risk of plant species becoming extinct. The work was a collaboration between international scientists and conservationists led by Newcastle University.

Combating and restoring species threats

The authors applied the new metric STAR (Species Threat Abatement and Restoration) to vascular plant species assessed on national Red Lists. What all three countries had in common was the significant threat that agricultural activities pose to plant species. In Brazil, the risk of extinction of the 2,791 endemic plant species included in the study was reduced by 29% by addressing the threat from agricultural activities. Similarly, the risk of extinction of the 1,894 endemic plant species studied in South Africa could be reduced by 36%, while in Norway the risk of extinction of the 301 terrestrial plant species studied could be reduced by 54%.

Each country’s unique situation was highlighted by identifying other ways to reduce the risk of species extinction. In Brazil, reducing the threat of urban expansion could reduce species extinction by 21%, while reducing the threat of fires caused by climate change and deforestation could reduce the risk of extinction by another 10%. In South Africa, invasive species pose a major threat to endemic flora and addressing this threat could reduce the risk of plant extinction by 21%. In Norway, a high-latitude country, the risk of species extinction could be reduced by 39% by addressing the threat of climate change, which poses a particularly difficult conservation challenge as climate change cannot necessarily be tackled locally.

The lead author Dr. Louise Mair, from Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, said: “The study shows how important it is to consider the conservation needs of the greatest possible biodiversity. At the same time, this is the greatest opportunity to reduce the risk of extinction of both terrestrial plants and terrestrial vertebrates such as amphibians, birds and mammals stemming from mitigation of agricultural threats was the relative importance of addressing other threats to plants compared to a previous study about terrestrial vertebrates differently.”

“Although Norway has few endemic species, this study shows that Norway can indeed help reduce global extinction risk by conserving populations of Arctic-Alpine vascular plants,” said Dr. Magni Olsen Kyrkjeeide from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

MSc. Lara Monteiro, fellow at the International Institute for Sustainability and Ph.D. Candidate in the Natural Resources Graduate Program at the University of Vermont (US) and MSc. Eduardo Fernandez, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Brazil Plant Red List Authority and Coordinator of the Red List Unit at the National Center of Flora Conservation in the Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, adds: “In addition to demonstrating the importance of addressing various threats This study impacting the persistence of Brazilian flora also underscores the considerable research effort Brazil has made to date and the importance of investing in expanding national Red List assessments to include threatened and near threatened species recognize.

“The development of research on more effective measures to address and mitigate species loss in climate change scenarios, such as Restoring forest landscapes, for example, can help us bring thousands of species currently on the brink of extinction, enabling the achievement of national goals.”

Capturing a greater diversity of species

National Red Lists are an essential resource to enable such analyzes to capture greater species diversity; Only 13% of plant species have a global extinction risk assessment, yet South Africa has made a national assessment of all 20,401 plant species within its borders, while Brazil has assessed almost 22% (7,830 out of 35,683 species) of its extremely diverse flora. Analyzes using national Red List data, such as those presented in this study, not only facilitate the inclusion of greater biodiversity, but also provide insights into each country’s unique conservation context.

The STAR metric employed in this study provides a tool for local and national decision-makers to assess their potential contribution to global biodiversity risk reduction, enabling them to engage in international conservation policy processes through the lens of their national context. Such analysis will be critical to support species conservation in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework currently being agreed at the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal.

More information:
Louise Mair et al, Quantifying and Mapping Opportunities to Address Species Threats in Support of National Targeting, Conservation Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.14046

Provided by Newcastle University

Citation: New Tool Offers Hope in Combating Plant Extinction (2022, December 14) Retrieved December 14, 2022 from

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