Risk of extinction for plants is higher in countries close to the equator

December 10th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 10 (ANI): A new research has suggested that the risk of extinction for plants is higher in countries close to the equator than previously thought.

The research was carried out by Jana Vamosi and Steven Vamosi at the University of Calgary (U of C) in Canada.

The tropics contain many ancient species of plants, leading many to consider tropical species as less susceptible to extinction. But, our study indicates that quite the opposite is, in fact, the case, said Vamosi, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the U of C.

The extinction risk for plants is high in countries close to the equator and even higher on islands, even after we take into account factors related to human activities and their use of the natural resources, he added.

Previous studies on biodiversity in the tropics have focused on beetles, birds, mammals and molluscs.

The Vamosi study mined worldwide databases for the number of plant species at risk in each country of the world, from Falkland Islands in the south to Greenland in the north, and looked at human factors such as GDP, population density and deforestation.

Vamosi concentrated on data from vascular plants (ferns, conifers, and flowering plants), which includes such threatened species as the Canada Hemlock, Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, and Desert Lily, among many others.

Vamosi said that he was surprised that human activity was not the primary cause of the increasing risk of extinction in the equatorial regions.

Our findings differ from previous ones in that factors tightly linked to human activity were not particularly important in determining how many plant species were threatened with extinction. Instead, the most important factor seemed to be simply latitude. So, extinction dynamics may be very different between plant and animal species, said Vamosi.

Plant species near the equator may persist at naturally low population sizes or have small ranges, making them intrinsically more susceptible to a given amount of disturbance, he added.

This is not to say that human activities are not underlying contemporary risk of extinction; instead, it implies that plant species in a tropical country will, on average, be more sensitive to a given amount of human disturbance than those in a temperate country, he further added. (ANI)

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