"Big deal!" you might scoff, if you're one of the majority of Americans who eats almost no vegetables (let alone soy products). But it is a very big deal, as many of the 380,000 estimated plant species make life possible for all the rest of us here on Earth who don't get our energy directly from the sun.
"We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear -- plants are the basis of all life on Earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. All animal and bird life depends on them, and so do we," explained Stephen Hopper, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, according to Agence France-Presse.
Researchers also determined that there was insufficient data available to even assess the risk faced by about a third of plant species, meaning that the number of plants at risk for extinction could actually be even higher. Gymnosperms, a group of plants that includes a range of species of fir and pine trees, were among the most threatened, so there again: no authentic Christmases future.
Biodiversity loss may be greatly accelerating, but it's hardly a new phenomenon. Many researchers agree that the world is in the midst of the Holocene Extinction Event, the fifth mass extinction in the geologic record.
But while previous extinctions could have been caused by meteorites, volcanic events or climate change, this one is likely caused by humans. The modern mass extinction could have begun as early as 11,000 B.C., but even the earliest extinctions of megafauna may be linked to human activities like hunting.
The United Nations declared 2010 the international year of biodiversity, and in late October members of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity will convene in Nagoya, Japan, to set new targets for biodiversity loss. The United States, however, will be absent, having signed, but not ratified, the treaty.
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