Biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate! Over the course of our lifetimes, it is possible that another 130,000 plant species could be wiped out if we do not take action now.
Biodiversity is being lost – locally, regionally and globally. It is now estimated that approximately one third of global plant species are at risk of extinction. Scientists say that plant extinction is occurring up to 500 times faster than what would be expected naturally. Over the last 250 years, almost 600 plant species have disappeared. Over the course of our lifetimes, it is possible that another 130,000 plant species could be wiped out if we do not take action now.
Plants are very important to our planet; they form the critical base of food chains in nearly all ecosystems. Without plants there would be no oxygen to breathe and no food to eat. In addition, plants help filter water and air, contain many medicinal properties and provide humans with the ability to make fire and build houses.
Scientists believe humanity is a long way from utilizing the full potential of biodiversity, in particular plants and fungi. They also believe it is critical to explore the solutions plants could provide to the many global threats we face today. For example, rice and corn are staples to more than half the people on earth. It is estimated that by 2050 10 billion people will inhabit the planet. (That is a lot of rice and corn to go around!) Researching the earth’s edible plants is key to finding food sources that will be able to sustain our growing population. According to a study conducted by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, there are nearly 7,000 species of edible plants on earth (not including famine foods eaten during emergencies), yet only around 400 of them are currently considered food crops. Scientists are working to find alternative food sources.
Why are plants disappearing?
It’s plain and simple – human activities are accelerating the loss of biodiversity. The greatest threats to plant species include habitat loss, climate change, pollution and overexploitation. Every hour, 6000 acres of rainforest are burned or cut down to make way for agriculture, livestock, logging and mining. In a single year, the ozone pollution in India kills enough crops to feed 94 million people.
What can YOU DO?
Long Island is home to many different species of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses. If you are not already doing so, consider planting Long Island natives on your property! Restoring native plant communities is vital to preserving Long Island’s biodiversity, providing shelter and nutritious food for pollinators and other desirable wildlife and helping prevent invasive species from taking over.
Sources for Native Plants
(1) Long Island Native Plant Initiative and its native plant sales – the best! Plants sold by LINPI are not only native but also genetically appropriate (ecotypic) for Long Island – www.linpi.org
(2) NYC Parks Department of Parks Natural Resources Group’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center – availability of plants for sale to general public may be somewhat limited but DEFINITELY worth looking into.
(3) Long Island Natives – www.longislandnatives.com
(4) Glover Perennials – www.gloverperennials.com