Half of the world's medicines are at risk of disappearing due to a "silent factor"

Half of the world's medicines are at risk of disappearing due to a "silent factor"

Humanity is on the verge of losing up to half of its future medicines as many plant species face extinction, scientists have warned.

According to scientists, about half of all flowering plants are at risk, numbering more than 100 thousand, while it is believed that about 77% of all plants that have not yet been described by science are at risk.

Some of these plants become extinct between the time they are discovered and the time they are catalogued, which takes about 16 years on average.

The main cause of these extinctions is habitat loss, such as deforestation or the construction of dams that flood river areas.

Conservation analyst Dr Matilda Brown, who is among the researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, who published these findings in their latest report on the state of the world's plants and fungi, said climate change is "certainly looming", but it is very difficult to measure. As a threat. 

Scientists are calling for all newly described species to be treated as threatened unless proven otherwise.

Dr Brown added: “We are looking at more than 100,000 species threatened with extinction. This is more than the total number of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and all our vertebrates combined. And when we take into account that nine out of ten of our medicines come from plants, the potential for "We face losing up to half of all our future medicines. So this is not just a big number for plants. It's a big number in terms of potential impacts on humanity."

Many newly described species are at risk of extinction because they are specific to only one area, or because they are located in areas where there is a large human presence.

Many knowledge "dark spots" exist throughout the Amazon, India, China, tropical Southeast Asia, and parts of the Middle East, where conflict, difficult terrain, and lack of funding have made exploration difficult for botanists.

More than 200 scientists from 102 institutions in 30 countries around the world contributed to the Q report, which includes the World Checklist of Vascular Plants, the most complete record of known plant species, containing more than 350,000 names.

Rafael Govaerts, who spent 35 years compiling the list, said he follows Charles Darwin's dream of seeing every plant species on Earth recorded.

It will need constant updating as about 2,500 new species are officially described each year, and this excludes fungi, which are one of the least understood parts of the natural world.

Mycologists estimate that there are about 2.5 million species, of which 155,000 have been catalogued.

Professor Alexander Antonelli, Director of Science at Keio University, noted: “We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the fungi on this planet.”

Scientists said that at the current rate of scientific description, it would take between 750 and 1,000 years to classify all fungal species, and they believe DNA sequencing and studying molecular data could help speed this up.
Since the outbreak of the "Covid-19" epidemic in 2020, scientists have described 10,200 new fungal species and more than 8,600 plant species, as lockdowns gave them more time to work on the backlog of examples that had been found but not classified.

Professor Antonelli hopes the research will encourage policy makers to take plants and fungi into account when choosing areas to protect as part of the international goal to protect 30% of the planet by 2030, and not focus solely on animals.

The amount of ice in Antarctica has fallen to a record level

The volume of ice continues to decrease in the Earth's poles, and in Antarctica it has reached a record high, while in the Arctic it has recorded its fourth lowest level in 40 years.

The information office of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute notes that, “At the end of winter in Antarctica, a record low level of ice cover size was recorded over the history of monitoring. As for the Arctic, the lowest ice level in the past 40 years was recorded in the summer.”

Now autumn has begun in the Northern Hemisphere, and spring has begun in the Southern Hemisphere. This means that a period of maximum ice cover formation has now begun in the Arctic, and in Antarctica, on the contrary, a period of melting ice has begun.

According to the institute's scientists, the area of ​​​​the ice cover in Antarctica in the winter of 2023 was small and amounted to 19.04 million square kilometers. This is a record low level for all years of monitoring, 1.4 million square kilometers or 7.5 percent less than normal.

In the Arctic, the melting of the ice cover was very slow in the first half of the summer, but starting in August, the melting and collapse of the ice accelerated. As a result, the ice area as of September 2023 decreased to 4.3 million square kilometers, 27 percent less than usual.

It is noteworthy that the volume of ice in the Arctic decreased significantly only in 2012, 2019 and 2020.

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