Unmapped plants put biodiversity at risk

Plants that are increasingly disappearing miss the ‘gold standard’ of scientific research, experts warn

Festival Net Zero 2021

Scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have warned that certain plant groups are under threat of extinction because we know so little about them.

Publishing in the journal ‘Trends in the Plant Science’, experts suggest specific plant groups, especially in poorer nations, lack monographs.

A botanical monograph is a publication that focuses on a plant group, bringing together all known information about those plants.

The information comes from observing plant species in their natural environment.

Monographs are believed to be the ‘gold standard’ for conservation efforts and species discovery and provide the baseline information to address environmental emergencies.

According to the report, several plant families, such as the legumes and orchids have yet to be completely monographed despite their importance for food, medicine and horticulture.

Dr Olwen Grace, Senior Researcher in the Monography department at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Lead Author of the paper said: “The increased availability of DNA sequence data and digitised resources now provide powerful resources for a new phase of collaborative efforts in monography, focused on tackling the largest, most threatened, ecologically important, and economically valuable plant groups in an efficient manner.

“I am convinced that this centuries-old tradition is more relevant than ever to help take care of the Earth’s biodiversity.

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