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An indicator of the conservation status of useful wild plants

Wild plants provide humanity with food, medicine, shelter, and many other essential needs. But many of the world’s useful plants are disappearing from their natural habitats. Scroll below to explore current indicators of how well these plants are safeguarded from these threats.

GLOBAL INDICATOR

Almost 7000 different wild useful plants were assessed to determine how comprehensively their diversity is safeguarded in seedbanks, botanic gardens, and other conservation repositories (ex situ), and how well parks, reserves, and other official protected areas preserve their natural populations (in situ). Every species was assigned a final score between 0 (poor) and 100 (excellent) in terms of their current conservation. Results for all species are available further down this page.

This global indicator shows the proportion of all these species around the world categorized as of high (score of 0 to 25), medium (score of 25 to 50), low (score of 50 to 75), or no (score of 75 to 100) priority for further conservation work, based on their current conservation status. Hover over the chart to see the proportions of species in each category.

The final indicator of the state of conservation of these plants globally was produced by calculating the proportion of species that were assessed as either low or no priority for further conservation work (i.e. the proportion of the charts that is green in color). Approximately 3.3% of species were assessed as well conserved in ex situ conservation, and 40.7% in in situ conservation. The combined conservation status metric for all species shows that less than three out of every 100 species (2.78%) is sufficiently conserved or of low priority for further conservation action. Urgent action is currently needed to improve the conservation of the diversity of the world’s useful wild plant species.

Combined conservation indicator

Indicator results per country

Useful wild plants native to each country were assessed together to calculate a national level conservation status score. Hover over the map to see the combined (ex situ and in situ) conservation status score for any country. Every species was assigned a final score between 0 (poor) and 100 (excellent) in terms of their current conservation. The national score is the proportion of these species that were assessed as sufficiently conserved or of low priority for further conservation action.

ex situ conservation indicator

Indicator results per country

Useful wild plants native to each country were assessed together to calculate a national level conservation status score. Hover over the map to see national level results with regard to how comprehensively the diversity of native plants is safeguarded in seedbanks, botanic gardens, and other conservation repositories (ex situ). Every species was assigned a score between 0 (poor) and 100 (excellent) in terms of their current conservation ex situ. The national score is the proportion of these species that were assessed as sufficiently conserved or of low priority for further ex situ conservation action.

in situ conservation indicator

Indicator results per country

Useful wild plants native to each country were assessed together to calculate a national level conservation status score. Hover over the map to see national level results with regard to how well parks, reserves, and other official protected areas preserve native plants’ natural populations (in situ). Every species was assigned a score between 0 (poor) and 100 (excellent) in terms of their current conservation in situ. The national score is the proportion of these species that were assessed as sufficiently conserved or of low priority for further in situ conservation action.

World Regions

Indicator results per world region

Useful wild plants native to each world region were assessed together to calculate a regional level conservation status score. This figure shows the proportion of species native to each region categorized as of high (score of 0 to 25), medium (score of 25 to 50), low (score of 50 to 75), or no (score of 75 to 100) priority for further conservation work, based on their current conservation status. Hover over the chart to see the scores for each category. The final indicator of the state of conservation of these plants regionally was produced by calculating the proportion of species that were assessed as either low or no priority for further conservation work (i.e. the proportion of the charts that is green in color).

Plant uses

Indicator results per socioeconomic and cultural use category

Wild plants used for different purposes were assessed to calculate a conservation status score per use category. This figure shows the proportion of species categorized as of high (score of 0 to 25), medium (score of 25 to 50), low (score of 50 to 75), or no (score of 75 to 100) priority for further conservation work, based on their current conservation status. Hover over the chart to see the scores for each category. The final indicator of the state of conservation of these plants per use category was produced by calculating the proportion of species that were assessed as either low or no priority for further conservation work (i.e. the proportion of the charts that is green in color).

Species results

Results for all 6971 assessed species are provided in this table. Use the search bar to find species of interest, or download all results. The number of reference occurrences (H for herbarium), ex situ records (G for genebank), and total number of records assessed is provided. Conservation scores are provided per species with regard to ex situ, in situ, and combined (mean of ex situ and in situ), on a scale from 0 (poor) to 100 (excellent) conservation. The priority category for each species was assigned based on the combined score, with high priority (HP) being a score of 0 to 25, medium (MP) 25 to 50, low (LP) 50 to 75, or sufficiently conserved (SC) with 75 to 100. Please note these species level results have been recently updated and may differ slightly from the results in the journal article.

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About

A number of important international agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, make urgent calls for better conserving the diversity of plant species used for food and agriculture, medicine, shelter, fuel, forage, and other ecosystem and cultural services. Our research provides indicators of the state of conservation of useful wild plants targeted in SDG Target 2.5, Aichi Target 13, GSPC Target 9, and Article 5 of the International Treaty.

The methodology applied in this research assesses how comprehensively the diversity of useful wild plants is safeguarded in seedbanks, botanic gardens, and other conservation repositories (ex situ), and how well parks, reserves, and other official protected areas preserve their natural populations (in situ). The methodology includes the following five steps:

1. We created a dynamic list of socioeconomically and culturally valuable species based on the openly available GRIN-Global World Economic Plants (WEP) database. Almost 7000 wild plant species were selected from WEP based on their uses, which fit well with the international targets.

Use category Number of taxa
Animal foods (forage, fodder, etc.) 900
Bee plants (honey production) 207
Environmental use plants (agroforestry, erosion control, shade, etc.) 5,917
Food additives (flavoring, coloring, emulsifier, etc.) 505
Fuels (fuelwood, charcoal, petroleum substitute, etc.) 232
Genetic sources (crop wild relatives- only species with recorded uses in crop breeding or close relatives to cultivated crops) 4,032
Human foods (cereal, fruit, nut, etc.) 1,587
Materials (essential oils, fiber, gums, etc.) 2,383
Medicines (folklore, veterinary, etc.) 3,364
Pesticides (disease vector control, plant pest control, etc.) 50
Socially relevant plants (hallucinogen, religious, stimulant, etc.) 142
Total number of distinct species 6,941

Almost 7000 wild useful plants were assessed around the world. This map shows the number of species native to each country. The scale varies from 1 (Andorra, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Palestinian Territory, and U.S. Minor Outlying Islands) to 1947 (China), with a median across countries of 258. Please note these counts per country have been recently updated and may differ from the counts given in the journal article.

2. We compiled and processed reference and conservation repository occurrence data for all species of interest from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the Genesys plant genetic resources portal, and the Global Crop Wild Relative Occurrence Database. For all records, taxonomy was standardized and geographic information was validated.

3. We mapped the native distributions of species based on their occurrence information along with climatic and other environmental information.

Combined, the maps of wild useful plants occupy portions of all countries worldwide, with concentrations of species in East and Southeast Asia, Europe, Central America, South America, North America, and other regions.

4. We compared the distribution maps for each species against the locations where the species have previously been collected for ex situ conservation. We also reviewed the overlap of official protected areas and the species distribution maps. In both cases, we estimated the extent to which ex situ conservation repositories and protected areas represent the entire native diversity of the species, both with regard to geographic extent and ecological variation.

These maps provide an example of the mapping and gap analyses for a species. (A) Potential distribution map for Coffea liberica W. Bull ex Hiern based on occurrence locations. The lighter colored background displays the countries where the species is native; (B) ex situ ‘site where collected’ locations surrounded by a 50 km buffer (in red), over the potential distribution map. The buffered areas are considered to be sufficiently collected in the geographic sense, whereas the non-buffered (i.e., green-colored) areas of the potential distribution are considered to be geographic gaps in ex situ conservation; (C) Potential distribution occurring within and outside of designated protected areas. Areas of potential distribution of the species located outside of protected areas are considered to be geographic gaps in in situ conservation.

5. We calculated conservation scores for each species based on their representation ex situ and in situ. Every species was assigned a final score ex situ, in situ, and combined (an average of ex situ and in situ scores), between 0 (poor) and 100 (excellent) in terms of their current conservation. A priority category for each species was calculated based on the combined score, with high priority (HP) being a score of 0 to 25, medium (MP) 25 to 50, low (LP) 50 to 75, or sufficiently conserved (SC) with 75 to 100. Indicators were then developed at the global, regional, country, and use category levels by calculating the proportion of species that were assessed as either low or no priority for further conservation work.

These methods were built on well-curated and openly-accessible data sources, and built with processes that are openly-available, so that these indicators can be measured periodically into the future. The methods are fully described in this article, and the code is available on github.

The data and analyses shown here are associated with the publications:

Khoury, C., Amariles, D., Soto, J., Diaz, M., Sotelo, S., Sosa, C., Ramírez-Villegas, J., Achicanoy, H., Velásquez-Tibatá, J., Guarino, L., León, B., Navarro-Racines, C., Castañeda-Álvarez, N., Dempewolf, H., Wiersema, J. and Jarvis, A. (2018). Comprehensiveness of conservation of useful wild plants: An operational indicator for biodiversity and sustainable development targets. Ecological Indicators, 98, pp. 420-429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.11.016

Khoury CK, Amariles D, Soto JS, Diaz MV, Sotelo S, Sosa CC, Ramírez-Villegas J, Achicanoy HA, Castañeda-Álvarez NP, León B, and Wiersema JH (2019) Data for the calculation of an indicator of the comprehensiveness of conservation of useful wild plants. Data in Brief, 22, pp. 90-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2018.11.125

Selected media:

Wild coffee plants, Christmas trees and chocolate’s tree are surprisingly poorly protected
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/icft-wcp112118.php

Wild coffee plants, Christmas trees and chocolate’s tree are surprisingly poorly protected
https://blog.ciat.cgiar.org/wild-coffee-plants-christmas-trees-and-chocolates-tree-are-surprisingly-poorly-protected/

Las plantas silvestres de café, los árboles de Navidad y el árbol del chocolate están sorprendentemente muy mal protegidos
https://blog.ciat.cgiar.org/es/las-plantas-silvestres-de-cafe-los-arboles-de-navidad-y-el-arbol-del-chocolate-estan-sorprendentemente-muy-mal-protegidos/

An indicator of the conservation status of useful wild plants was built by Daniel Amariles and Colin K. Khoury at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). This is Version 1.0 (August 2018). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

This research was funded by the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, an initiative supported by UN Environment, the European Commission, and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.

Please contact Colin Khoury for more information.

Thanks!

Core team

Colin K. Khoury
Colin K. Khoury
Jonatan Soto Bermeo
Jonatan Soto Bermeo
Steven Sotelo
Steven Sotelo
Julian Ramirez-Villegas
Julian Ramirez-Villegas
Harold Achicanoy
Harold Achicanoy
Daniel Amariles
Daniel Amariles
Chrystian Sosa
Chrystian Sosa
María Victoria Diaz
María Victoria Diaz

In collaboration with:

This research was funded by the

Image Credits

Artocarpus altilis by Arthur Chapman https://flic.kr/p/XRvpMH

Macadamia integrifolia by https://www.cropwildrelatives.org

Solanum sisymbriifolium by Arthur Chapman https://flic.kr/p/7XSEQU