DURHAM, N.C., July 8 (UPI) — Thousands of flowering plants worldwide could become extinct before they’re even discovered, U.S. and British researchers said.
Scientific estimates indicate there could be between 5 million and 50 million species overall, but fewer than 2 million have been discovered, Duke University researchers said Wednesday in a release.
“Using novel methods, we were able to refine the estimate of total species for flowering plants, and calculate how many of those remain undiscovered,” said Lucas Joppa of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England, and lead author of a paper published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Based on data from an online checklist of plant families, the scientists calculated there are between 10 percent and 20 percent more undiscovered flowering plant species than previously estimated.
This finding has “enormous conservation implications, as any as-yet-unknown species are likely to be overwhelmingly rare and threatened,” Joppa said.
Another researcher, David Robert of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent, said adding the number of species that are currently known to be threatened with those yet discovered means “we can estimate that between 27 percent and 33 percent of all flowering plants will be threatened with extinction.”
Joppa said the percentage reflects global impacts such as habitat loss and could increase if climate change is considered.
“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, a conservation ecology professor at Duke University.
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