Research ArticleAPPLIED ECOLOGY

A third of the tropical African flora is potentially threatened with extinction

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Science Advances  20 Nov 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 11, eaax9444
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax9444

Abstract

Preserving tropical biodiversity is an urgent challenge when faced with the growing needs of countries. Despite their crucial importance for terrestrial ecosystems, most tropical plant species lack extinction risk assessments, limiting our ability to identify conservation priorities. Using a novel approach aligned with IUCN Red List criteria, we conducted a continental-scale preliminary conservation assessment of 22,036 vascular plant species in tropical Africa. Our results underline the high level of extinction risk of the tropical African flora. Thirty-three percent of the species are potentially threatened with extinction, and another third of species are likely rare, potentially becoming threatened in the near future. Four regions are highlighted with a high proportion (>40%) of potentially threatened species: Ethiopia, West Africa, central Tanzania, and southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our approach represents a first step toward data-driven conservation assessments applicable at continental scales providing crucial information for sustainable economic development prioritization.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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