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Homelands for Plants

The biodiversity that enables, enriches, and extends our lives is under threat, as human activity devastates forests and other plant-rich habitats. The question now is how quickly are undescribed species being destroyed – and what can be done to stop it.

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA – My day begins with a cup of coffee and ends with hot chocolate. In between, I consume a variety of food and medicines, including my daily 81mg dose of aspirin. A brightly colored orchid enlivens my study, and, through the window, I catch a glimpse of my green garden. In short, my life – like everyone’s – is enabled, enriched, and extended by a wide variety of plants and their derivatives.

But the biodiversity on which all of us depend is under threat, as human activity devastates forests and other plant-rich habitats. The question now is how quickly are species being destroyed – and what can be done to stop it.

Designing effective conservation strategies must begin with knowledge of the species we need to protect. So far, taxonomists have described roughly 297,500 plant species. How many have they not yet described? Where are we likely to find them?

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