Fifth of world's plant species 'at risk of extinction'

More than a fifth of the world's plant species are under threat of extinction, a global assessment reveals today.

The analysis indicates that the estimated 380,000 plant species found on Earth are as much at risk of disappearing as the planet's mammals and are more under threat than birds. Plants are most at risk from the destruction of their habitat by humans, according to the assessment by scientists at Kew, the Natural History Museum and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Vegetation is under pressure from human activities across the world – from the destruction of the Atlantic rainforest in South America to land clearance in Madagascar and intensive agriculture in Europe and the US, the experts warned.

The study, the Sampled Red List Index for Plants, indicates that some 80,000 to 100,000 plant species could be at risk of extinction globally – more than 50 times the number of species known to be native to the British Isles.