With an increasing number of plant species worldwide facing growing threats, from climate change to invasive species, a team of U.S. scientists has developed a process to more rapidly evaluate those plants facing the greatest risks of extinction. Writing in the journal
Biodiversity and Conservation, the scientists from the New York Botanical Garden describe a triage method to identify at-risk species based on data from plant research collections and geographic information systems (GIS) technology. According to the scientists, the standard conservation assessment process, developed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — which uses a rigorous process to classify species as “extinct,” “least concern,” “endangered,” and “critically endangered” — is limited because it requires large amounts of data that simply do not exist for most species. While there are 300,000 known plant species, they say, only 15,000 species have been evaluated under the IUCN process. As an alternative, they propose a simpler process that classifies species as either “at risk” or “not at risk” based on the key criterion of the size of its geographical range.