"Plant extinctions endanger other organisms, ecosystems and human well-being," warned the study.
Almost 600 species have become extinct in the past 250 years around the world, as presented in a groundbreaking and comprehensive global analysis published by the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution Monday.
"Plants underpin all life on Earth, they provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world's ecosystems — so plant extinction is bad news for all species," co-authur of the study Eimear Nic Lughadha of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said in a statement.
The first-of-its-kind investigation used a compilation of data gathered by Kew's Rafaël Govaerts since 1988 "to track the status of every known plant species."
The study's results, according to co-author Aelys M. Humphreys of Stockholm University, "provide an unprecedented window into plant extinction in modern times."
In today's Nature Briefing: the world’s largest plant survey has revealed an alarming extinction rate, a molecular biologist’s plan to make more CRISPR-edited babies and we know next to nothing about the possible effects of marine geoengineering. (Thread) pic.twitter.com/3ZvDiYzzRV— Nature News & Comment (@NatureNews) 11 de junio de 2019
"Most people can name a mammal or bird that has become extinct in recent centuries, but few can name an extinct plant," Humphreys said. "This study is the first time we have an overview of what plants have already become extinct, where they have disappeared from, and how quickly this is happening."
"The world's seed-bearing plants have been disappearing at a rate of nearly three species a year since 1900 — which is up to 500 times higher than would be expected as a result of natural forces alone," reported the authors.
Earlier in May, a U.N.-backed report found that up to one million species faced extinction due to human influence, confirming that humanity has undermined the natural resources upon which its very survival depends.