Deforestation has been contributing to the extinction of many types of plant life for the past few decades.
Now, mounting evidence suggests that the repercussions of the deforestation trend reach far beyond the eradication of plant species. Everything from potential loss of prescription drugs to frightening weather anomalies are beginning to alert scientists and citizens to a greater problem.
How big is the problem?
New studies have estimated that over one in five plant species now faces extinction. Scientists have projected these numbers could rise dramatically if action is not taken immediately to slow or stop the problem.
With millions of dollars being dedicated to research and sustainability efforts around the world, more people are taking notice of the importance of plant life and its direct and indirect impacts on our planet.
- One in Five Plant Species Faces Extinction: This groundbreaking study is publishing new evidence that roughly 33% of the world’s plant species is in danger of extinction. According to the scientists at Kew Gardens who conducted the experiment, this estimate is expected to increase in the near future.
- Science Daily: Endangered Plant News: This site features a variety of articles focusing on the latest scientific data causing plant endangerment and extinction, including the use of harmful pesticides, the proliferation of deadly fungi, and climate changes that are detrimental to many species of plant life.
- Discovery News: 20 Percent of Plant Species Face Extinction: This article examines the detrimental effects that disappearing plant species may have on the earth’s food, air, and water. This will eventually cause serious repercussions for wildlife and humans.
What plants are endangered?
Organizations such as the USDA and The IUCN keep detailed listings of endangered plants and animals, and often classify these findings on a sliding scale in terms of the probability of extinction. With thousands of species on this list, it is imperative that local residents and governments take action to ensure that the annual and perennial plants in their area are well cared for and preserved for future generations.
The extinction of endangered plants also influences the livelihood of the animal wildlife that depends on the vegetation for food.
- USDA Threatened and Endangered Plant Listing: The USDA offers a helpful database that allows the user to search for endangered plant species by habitat, state, or scientific name.
- Endangered Species Search: This simple search engine encompasses endangered animal species as well as plant life.
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: This site allows the user to browse endangered and extinct species ranging from a less serious “Least Concerned” listing, and progressing through an “Endangered” category before finally culminating in their “Extinct” category, with many other sub-categories in between.
- Endangered and Threatened Plants in Texas and the United States: From The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, this listing primarily focuses on threatened varieties of flowers, grasses, trees and more in the state of Texas.
Consequences of extinction on daily life
The consequences of tree-loss and plant extinction are staggering. Besides the catastrophic effects on natural ecosystems struggling to exist in destroyed forests, rainforests, or woodlands, the continued loss of plants species has the potential to cause major climate changes that will be detrimental to the entire Earth.
Also of concern, is the future of the pharmaceutical industry, which relies on plant life to manufacture over 25% of drugs currently prescribed. Global productivity is also at stake as droughts caused by deforestation adversely affect many industries that play a larger role in world commerce.
- Potential Consequences of Plant Extinction in the United States on the Currant and Future Availability of Prescription Drugs: It is estimated that over 25% of the world’s prescriptions drugs are at least partially derived from some form of plant life. This fascinating article examines the consequences, both on medically and financially, that the continuing endangerment of certain species could have on the prescription drug industry and on our health.
- Plant Species Extinctions Could Slash Global Productivity in Half: Detrimental effects are being seen on global productivity due to the little-known side effects of certain plant extinctions.
- Why Mass Plant Extinction Hurts More Than Just Veggie Lovers: Recent studies have precipitated this article examining the loss of biodiversity on the planet, and suggests that for the first time in the earth’s history, that human beings, not cyclical natural disasters, are the leading perpetrators in an extinction process that may come to harm every creature on earth.
- Greenpeace: Deforestation: Greenpeace examines the role that massive deforestation is having on weather and climate changes and the greenhouse effect.
Endangered plants and the rain forest
The rain forests of the world are home to millions of species of plant and animal life, and the plant life living there is the main source of the oxygen released into our atmosphere that is necessary to maintain balanced life on Earth for all living creatures.
Cutting off this crucial oxygen supply is theorized to be a major contributor for global weather changes, climate shifts, and the greenhouse effect.
- Tropical Deforestation: This intriguing article presented by NASA examines the global consequences of deforestation. Not only is plant life facing extinction, but the continuing trend of tropical deforestation leads to social conflict, climate changes and detrimental effects to certain industries across the globe.
- Rainforests: Background Information and Activities: A great primer for children, this page on rainforests offers basic information on the structure and significance of the rainforest, as well as the potentially damaging results of deforestation.
Tell me about deforestation
Deforestation is the process of clearing vast areas of woodlands or rainforests to harvest lumber, or to create farms or pastures for grazing, amongst other things. Problematically, the current practices used are very detrimental to the areas being deforested and the earth’s weather patterns and ecosystems on a global level. While it was once thought that the harmful effects were localized, scientists are now beginning to discover that rampant deforestation is having severe global consequences.
- National Geographic: Deforestation: This concise and informative article discusses reasons for deforestation, methods as to how it is usually carried out, and alternative ways of conducting this process so that we might have less of an impact on the environment.
- Forest Holocaust: National Geographic presents some scary statistics: it is estimated that nearly 80% of the earth’s forests have been leveled, causing draught, famine, and the loss of a living area for most of the indigenous animals and plants.
- Global Deforestation: This in-depth essay examines all the basics on the deforestation catastrophe, including many helpful charts and illustrations. More importantly, it discusses in-depth what measures are in place to protect the future of the world’s forests.
- NASA: Tropical Deforestation: From its observatories, NASA presents a birds-eye view of the effects of deforestation on countries across the globe.
- Facts of Deforestation: This page offers basic facts on the difference between woodlands and forests, examines the consequences of deforestation, offers several helpful ways that anyone can help reduce the harmful effects of deforestation, and contains a list for further reading.
- Forests.org: This organization calls for people to take action. The site offers many informational articles, breaking news stories, links for further information, and even a blog dedicated to saving the earth’s forests.
Who is trying to help?
Thankfully, there are many organizations out there trying to help solve the problem through scientific studies, hands-on rescue missions, educational resources, and political protests. Even donating one dollar to the Plant a Billion Trees foundation can do something to help repair a deforested area, and will raise oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
- National Tropical Botanical Gardens: Through teaching, restoration, and research, this organization is dedicated to preserving tropical plants from further eradication, 90% of which exist in the rainforests that face deforestation every day.
- Endangered Species Program: This program works hard to save endangered species, offers a list of currently endangered plants and animals, and even boasts a page for children interested on what they can do to help.
- Bureau of Land Management: The Bureau of Land Management currently oversees 245 million acres of lands ripe with endangered and non-endangered species of birds, fish, mammals and plant life. The site has several programs listed that may offer volunteer opportunities.
- USDA Forest Service: Dedicated to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, the Rare Plants division of the Forest Service educates studies and takes action to ensure that these species do not become extinct.
- Plant a Billion Trees: For only one dollar, you can have a tree planted in Brazil that will bring this organization one tree closer to reaching its goal of planting a billion trees to help restore decimated forest areas.