- Title: Plant report reveals new discoveries and climate survivors
- Date: 18th May 2017
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (MAY 12, 2017) (REUTERS) WIDE OF INSIDE OF CACTI GREENHOUSE AT THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW (KEW GARDENS) / PROF. KATHY WILLIS, DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE, WALKING THROUGH VARIOUS OF WILLIS LOOKING AT CACTUS CLOSE OF 'STATE OF THE WORLD'S PLANTS 2017' REPORT UNDER WILLIS' ARM (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROF. KATHY WILLIS, DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW, SAYING: "Plants underpin all aspects of life on Earth from the air we breathe right through to our food our crops, our medicines. And one of the things we've been looking at is if you take one away what happens to the rest of that ecosystem; how does it impact, which are the most important plants, which are the ones we really do need to learn more about, discover new varieties and really go out there and explore and understand the science behind them." VARIOUS OF CACTI IN GREENHOUSE (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROF. KATHY WILLIS, DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW, SAYING: "It is hard but many plants not yet been assessed but those that have been assessed globally about 20 percent of them are under the risk of extinction. Their populations are getting smaller and smaller. So this is a really serious problem and it's one we keep missing because people tend to think of plants and think 'gardens', 'very beautiful' - look round here - immediately your eyes are drawn to the flowers, the beauty. But when you think about what plants do for us we have to take this very, very seriously now. And right now plant science is still very much the Cinderella of Sciences, it's always the loss part of of the scientific work is done. We have to change that agenda." PAN OF GREENHOUSE CONTAINING PITCHER PLANTS (NEPENTHES) CLOSE OF PLANT (SOUNDBITE) (English) TIMOTHY UTTERIDGE, HEAD OF IDENTIFICATION AND NAMING, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW, SAYING: "DNA can reveal new species but at the same time we might have had some species just hiding away that we didn't really know about. So this plant here one of pitcher plants from South East Asia it's been in cultivation for over 10 years. And it's always had a name but no one's really been sure of what that name is. And now botanists from Kew have looked at its habitat, its ecology and they've grown it and they've given it a formal new scientific name just this year." VARIOUS OF UTTERIDGE LOOKING AT NEWLY NAMED SPECIES OF PITCHER PLANT - NEPENTHES MINIMA - THROUGH A MAGNIFYING GLASS (SOUNDBITE) (English) TIMOTHY UTTERIDGE, HEAD OF IDENTIFICATION AND NAMING, ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW, SAYING: "We know about 20 percent of the planet's plants are under threat and we are describing new species from areas where forest is already disappeared. What we're now concerned about is what will be left? What would the community of plants look like? Will we have that diversity? Or will it be just a few common species that can survive in really degraded habitats." WIDE OF DR. ILIA J. LEITCH, SENIOR RESEARCH LEADER AT THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW, WORKING WITH PLANT DNA IN LAB
- Embargoed: 1st June 2017 10:42
- Keywords: botany DNA plants Kew Gardens RBG Royal Botanic Gardens
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Life Sciences,Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0026HD8EHN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The spread of pests and pathogens that damage plant life could cost global agriculture $540 billion a year, according to a report published on Thursday (May 18).
The report, released by the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Kew in London, said that an increase in international trade and travel had left flora facing rising threats from invasive pests and pathogens, and called for greater biosecurity measures.
"Plants underpin all aspects of life on Earth from the air we breathe right through to our food, our crops, our medicines," said Professor Kathy Willis, RBG Kew's director of science.
"If you take one away, what happens to the rest of that ecosystem - how does it impact?"
Wildfires account for the destruction of about 340 million hectares of the earth's vegetative surface annually, while the felling of tropical trees for human habitat is putting further strain on plant survival.
"We are describing new species from areas where forest has already disappeared," said Tim Utteridge, head of identification at Kew. "What we're now concerned about is what will be left. What would the community of plants look like? Will we have that diversity? Or will it be just a few common species that can survive in really degraded habitats?"
Researchers also examined the traits that would determine which plant species would cope in a world feeling the effects of climate change.
Plants with deeper roots and higher wood density are better able to withstand drought, while thicker leaves and taller grasses can cope with higher temperatures, the report found.
Surprisingly, researchers also found that the traits that are likely to help species thrive appear to be transferable across different environments.
The number of plants with assembled whole genomes has risen by 60 percent in the last year thanks to advances in DNA sequencing. Knowing the genetic make-up of certain plants - such as the Madagascan Periwinkle - is helping scientists develop new medicines.
"It contains two very important chemicals that are widely used in cancer treatment, vinblastine and vincristine," explained Kew's senior research leader Dr. Ilia Leitch. "By having all the DNA sequence of its genome will enable scientists to work out the more complete understanding of the pathway that leads to the synthesis of these chemicals for enabling and enhancing future studies using these drugs."
In total, 28,187 plant species are recorded with a medicinal use, the report says.
The report, which involved 128 scientists in 12 countries, found that 1,730 new plant species had been discovered in the past year.
Nine new species of the climbing vine Mucuna, used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, were found and named across South East Asia and South and Central America.
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