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Kew’s State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2020 report

RBG Kew’s fourth State of the World’s report takes a deep dive into the state of the world’s plant and fungal kingdoms globally. The new data, the result of a huge and unprecedented international collaboration bringing together 210 scientists from 42 countries, show how we are currently using plants and fungi, what useful properties we are missing, and what we risk losing.

The only known wild species of Abutilon pitcairnense was wiped off Pitcairn Island after a landslide (Credit Marcella Corcoran)

Plants and fungi are the building blocks of life on planet Earth. They have the potential to solve urgent problems that threaten human life, but these vital resources are being compromised by biodiversity loss. The report highlights the pressing need to explore the solutions that plants and fungi could provide, to address some of the pressures facing people and planet.

This landmark report is the first time plants and fungi have been combined in one global State of the World’sassessment, with the underlying data also published today in a series of scientific research papers made freely available in the leading journal Plants, People, Planet.

Professor Alexandre Antonelli, Director of Science at RBG Kew, says:

“The data emerging from this year’s report paint a picture of a world that has turned its back on the potential of plants and fungi to address fundamental global issues such as food security and climate change. Societies have been too dependent on too few species for too long.

Fungarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew-Credit-Steve-Lancefield

“At a time of rapid biodiversity loss, we are failing to access the treasure chest of incredible diversity on offer and missing a huge opportunity for our generation. As we start the most critical decade our planet has ever faced, we hope this report will give the public, businesses and policymakers the facts they need to demand nature-based solutions that can address the triple threats of climate change, biodiversity loss and food security.”

This year’s report has a chapter focused on the UK, looking at the knowledge gaps of the biodiversity in the UK and the UK Overseas Territories. New data show that despite the UK flora being one of the most studied in the world, there is no single agreed list of the UK’s flowering plants.

Brazil has formed the world’s largest tropical herbarium using digitised specimens (Credit – RBG Kew)

Current data from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland show there are 9,001 species of vascular plants, of which 3,025 are native, but this list differs from others. For fungi, there is even more uncertainty, with estimates for numbers in the UK ranging from 12,000–20,000. There are at least 50 new additions each year, and no comprehensive checklist of British fungi exists.

With climate change and habitat loss threatening plants and fungi in the UK, authors suggest these knowledge gaps pose a challenge for conservation in the UK, as you cannot protect what you don’t know about.

To read the full report, click here.

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