Plants at Risk
The biggest factors threatening plant species with extinction are the destruction of habitats for farming (31%) - such as palm oil production and cattle ranching, deforestation for timber (21%) and construction of buildings and infrastructure (13%).
Climate change is currently a smaller factor - 4% - but is likely to grow.
One important crop that is already suffering is coffee, as rising temperatures make the beans impossible to grow and increase diseases in key countries such as Ethiopia.
Many important crops have been bred over thousands of years to produce high yields, but have lost genes that help fight pests and cope with changes in climate. Bananas, sorghum and aubergines are among those with very little genetic diversity, making them highly vulnerable to new threats. Finding wild relatives of such crops means new, more robust varieties can be bred.
The importance of plants for the development of new medicines was revealed in the report, which found that 57% of the 31,000 species with known uses were those from which drugs were derived. More than 5,500 are human foods, while there are 2,500 poisons and 1,400 with “social uses”, such as tobacco and cannabis.