Researchers have found more than 80,000 plant species that are in danger of going extinct, simply because humans don’t need them.

According to a paper published by Plant, People, Planet, this will cause future plant communities to be largely homogenized or similar and not unique. The findings only cover less than 30% of all known plant species, and researchers warn this is a “wake-up call” for people to save these unique plant species.

The Smithsonian Institution found what plant species were most affected by humans since the start of the Anthropocene, or the time when the human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.

According to The Guardian, the team of researchers analyzed data from 86,592 plant species and gathered information about different uses for these plants. From the collected data, the team categorized how the plants have managed not to go extinct. The research found eight distinct categories, which uncovered that many more species of plants will be pushed to the brink of extinction due to human activity.

6,749 plants are categorized as helpful to humans, including many crops like corn, rice, and wheat. These, along with a few others, cover 40% of the planet’s surface, which has led to the extinction of many unique plants. Most of these are primarily grown to feed livestock raised for food.

164 plants aren’t helpful to humans and mostly are weedy species like the kudzu, a climbing, and coiling vine species. The third category is 20,290 species of plants that are not useful to humans and are already recognized as endangered, such as the magnolia tree from Haiti, which was exploited for firewood.

Another category comprises 26,002 species of potentially helpful plants that are considered neutral, while 18,664 species are potentially beneficial but neutral as well. The last two categories are plants considered neutral and 571 species that have already gone extinct.

Biodiversity is on a massive decline, and research suggests this trend will keep up. Less plant diversity means there will be much less animal diversity, making fragile ecosystems vulnerable and, in turn, changing the planet’s climate.

Richard Corlett, a professor at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, told The Guardian, “How many people can name a threatened plant? Plant conservation is not like animal conservation, where we continue to lose species despite efforts to save them. In plant conservation, there are no hopeless cases, at least in regards to extinction.”

There needs to be a wake-up call around plant extinction and a more decisive fight for zero plant extinction.

What can you do?

One of the largest threats to our planet’s ecosystem is how we are using our land for agriculture. Whether for crops, which are mostly made for livestock feed, or animal grazing, our practices are significantly harming the environment. Livestock production creates a considerable amount of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Livestock takes up nearly 80% of global agricultural land. If we used this land for other things and stopped destroying forests and ecosystems, we could give this land back to a wide range of diverse plant species for a more biodiverse environment.

Choices you make can have a considerable influence on the planet’s future. Whether it is avoiding palm oil, which destroys the Amazon rainforest and ecosystem, or avoiding meat, these are easy things to avoid and are better for your health! We must look at what we are eating and putting into our bodies and how that affects us and the world around us.

By choosing a plant-based diet, you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save water, end world hunger, and improve your health. There are more plant-based options now than there have ever been, and it’s never been easier to eat with the planet in mind. Sign this petition to demand the U.S. passes the Extinction Crisis Emergency Act!

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