Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tropics No Longer Museum Of Plant Biodiversity

Date:
December 10, 2008
Source:
University of Calgary
Summary:
The biodiversity picture in the region known as the "lungs of the Earth" contradicts commonly held views relating to extinction in that area. New research outlines that the risk of extinction for plants is higher in countries close to the equator than previously thought.

The risk of extinction for plants is higher in countries close to the equator than previously thought.
Credit: iStockphoto/Dean Turner

Researchers at the University of Calgary have found the biodiversity picture in the region known as the "lungs of the Earth" contradicts commonly held views relating to extinction in that area.

Related Articles


A paper published in PLoS One by Jana Vamosi and Steven Vamosi outlines that the risk of extinction for plants is higher in countries close to the equator than previously thought.

"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," says Steven 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."

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 says 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. 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 adds that he would like to see the findings spur other researchers to bring more data to bear on this issue, given that most attention to date has focused on vertebrates.

Does this study put human disturbance off the hook? Vamosi says: No.

"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 says.

Vamosi says that it is estimated that 20 to 45 per cent of species in the tropics are at risk. As a point of reference, in Canada, roughly 2 to 3 per cent are vulnerable to extinction.

Tropical ecosystems are considered the lungs of our planet as 60 per cent of the Earth's plant species are found in tropical rain forests, despite this area containing only 12 per cent of the Earth's land mass. The tropics are an important source of pharmaceuticals as well as food. The area is also habitat for a disproportionate percentage of the Earth's fauna, including butterflies, primates, birds, bats, and losses of tropical plants will often have disastrous consequences for such species. Because of the interconnectedness of the Earth's ecosystems, species loss near the equator can have significant effects on countries thousands of kilometers away.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Calgary. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vamosi et al. Extinction Risk Escalates in the Tropics. PLoS ONE, 2008; 3 (12): e3886 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003886

Cite This Page:

University of Calgary. "Tropics No Longer Museum Of Plant Biodiversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081209221705.htm>.
University of Calgary. (2008, December 10). Tropics No Longer Museum Of Plant Biodiversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081209221705.htm
University of Calgary. "Tropics No Longer Museum Of Plant Biodiversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081209221705.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins