Friday, September 6, 2013

Two-Thirds of Earth's Plants Are Found on Just 17 Percent of Its Land


Ecuador's Yasuni National Park, which has more plant species than anywhere else on Earth. Photo: Ian McFadden.

In 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (an international treaty with 193 member countries--the US signed but never ratified the treaty, shocker) set a goal to protect 17 percent of Earth's most biodiverse land by 2020. By doing that, they argued, we're be protecting roughly 60 percent of all of the planet's plant species.

Turns out, they underestimated the impact it'd have: According to a new study by Duke and North Carolina State University researchers published in Science, protecting that land would conserve more than two-thirds of plant species. By proxy, it also protects some of the most endangered vertebrate animals. 

This is not surprising. The areas researchers propose protecting encompass some of the planet's most important rain forests and tropical areas, including those in Central America, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, and the Amazon Rainforest along the equator--known hotspots of biodiversity.

If we're looking only at the numbers, Earth as a whole isn't too far off from meeting that 17 percent goal. The only problem, according to the authors, is we're protecting the wrong areas (if we're looking to preserve biodiversity). As of 2009, about 13 percent of all of Earth's land was protected in some way. But a lot of that land is not terribly important, biodiversity-wise.
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