Australasian Plant Conservation (formerly Danthonia)
Originally published in Danthonia 7(1), June 1998
The 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened
Plants - the first global list of the world’s threatened flora
National Coordinator, ANPC
Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Australasian Plant Specialist Group.
An event of global significance for threatened plants occurred on 9th April
1998 Australian time. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants was launched
with events held in Canberra, London, Cape Town and Washington.
The publication (over 900 pages) is the first attempt to list all vascular
plant species known to be globally threatened or extinct. Ferns, fern-allies,
gymnosperms and flowering plants are covered, but not the lower plants, such
as fungi, mosses and lichens. Of the estimated 270,000 known species of vascular
plants, 33,798 of these, or 12.5%, are listed as globally threatened or extinct.
Of these, 91% are limited in their distribution to a single country.
The pre-1994 IUCN Threat Categories are used. ie. Extinct (Ex), Extinct/Endangered
(Ex/E), Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V) Rare (R) and Indeterminate (I). The
term 'Threatened' covers all categories except Ex.
Numbers of species globally threatened or extinct by threat category.
||% of flora
# Calculated against a world flora of 270,000 species * Calculated against
a flora of 15,638 species
Extinction figures are arguably a conservative estimate, as only recorded
extinctions are listed.
The countries which were able to provide complete data sets are among those
listed as having the highest percentage of their flora globally threatened.
These are Australia with 14.4% (14.8% including extinct species), South
Africa with 9.5 % and USA with 29%.
Islands, with their greater degree of risk due often to higher rates of
endemism, ranked among those countries with the highest percentage of species
threatened. eg Mauritius (39.2%), Seychelles (31.2%) and St Helena (41.2%).
The List was generated from the Threatened Plants Database of the World
Conservation Monitoring Centre, and is the culmination of around 30 years
of data gathering from thousands of sources. However it represents the "tip
of the iceberg" as there are still enormous gaps in taxonomic, distributional
and conservation information, particularly from parts of Africa, Asia, the
Carribean and South America. In addition, if data were only available for
part of the known range of a species, the species was not included in the
listing, even if it was suspected of being threatened.
Another important aspect not captured by the data, but noted in the Introduction
as representing a much worse conservation scenario, is that of "genetic
erosion and diminishing genetic diversity at the population level".
The urgency for filling these knowledge gaps is highlighted by this publication.
One of the major purposes quoted for the production of red lists (once
called ROTAP* lists, now ANZECC lists, in Australia, one of the pioneering
countries in developing these), is "To motivate people to participate
in conservation networks, actions, and educational programs".
They are also described as the "unspectacular but indispensable root
system from which true judgement and real conservation can grow."
* Rare or Threatened Australian Plants.
Walter, K. S. and Gillett, H. J. [eds] 1998, 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened
Plants. Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. IUCN -
The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. lxiv
+ 862pp. Available from IUCN Publications Services Unit, 219c Huntington
Road, Cambridge, CB3 0DL, UK. Email: email@example.com.