This Is The State Of The World's Plants, By The Numbers

It's a green, green world

Plants

Plants

Plants are hanging in there.maskoen/flickr

How many plants have you seen today? Crops in fields? Towering trees? That wilting houseplant you forgot to water? Go ahead, water it, I'll wait.

Plants are one of the defining lifeforms of our planet, the green engines of our atmosphere, and we rely on them every day for medicines, food, shelter, even the air we breathe.

Last week, the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the UK released a report detailing the State of the World's Plants. There's both good news and bad news in the report, but it mostly provides a baseline assessment of plants around the world. The researchers plan on making this an annual report, a yearly check-up on the organisms that we rely on so closely.

Here are some key figures from the first report:

  • 2,034: New vascular plant species discovered in 2015. ("Vascular" just means it has specialized tubes for delivering water and nutrients throughout the plant. This includes pretty much everything except mosses and algae.)
  • 31,128: The number of plant species with a documented use. The largest number of these (17,810) are used for medicine.
  • 2.3 million The number of square kilometers of forest that disappeared in 2015. That's 888,035 square miles.
  • 4,979: The number of plant species that are considered invasive.
  • 1 in 5: The proportion of plant species that are threatened with extinction. 31 percent of those, or 9,012 species are threatened with extinction due to agricultural reasons.