According to a study published in the journal Current Biology this week, this represents a shocking 45.4% of all known plant extinctions from 10 of the world's 36 biodiversity hotspots. Biodiversity hotspots are areas that harbour exceptionally high numbers of unique species, but at the same time they are under severe threat from human disturbance.
South Africa is remarkable in that, for a relatively small country, it is home to three of these hotspots.
Team - Researchers - Prof - Jaco - Le
An international team of researchers, led by Prof Jaco Le Roux and Dr Heidi Hirsch, affiliated with the Centre for Invasion Biology (CIB) at Stellenbosch University (SU), analysed a comprehensive dataset of 291 plant extinctions since 1700 in ten biodiversity hotspots and six coldspots, covering about 15% of Earth's land surface.
The main drivers for extinctions in South Africa were found to be agriculture (49.4%), urbanisation (38%) and invasive species (22%).
Results - Analysis - Show - Extinction - Rates
The results of their analysis show that, since the 1990s, extinction rates for plants over the past 300 years appear to have settled at about 1.26 extinctions per year. At its peak, however, it was at least 350 times that of historical background rates during pre-human times.
At this rate, they predict that, in the areas they studied, an additional 21 plant species will go extinct by 2030, 47 species by 2050 and 110 species by 2100.
Findings - Contrast - Predictions - Studies - Half
However, these findings stand in sharp contrast to predictions from other studies that as much as half of Earth's estimated 390,000 plant species may disappear within the remainder of this century.
"This would translate into more than 49,000 extinctions in the regions we studied over the next 80 years, which seems unlikely, bar a cataclysmic event such as an asteroid strike!" they argue.
Prof - Le - Roux - Datasets - Data
Prof Le Roux says regional datasets provide valuable data to make general inferences around plant extinctions and the drivers underlying these extinctions. There...
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