More than 700 “endangered” plant and lichen species could be wiped out by climate change, warns a new study.
All plants and lichens listed under the Endangered Species Act are sensitive to global warming – but there are few plans in place to address the threat directly, say scientists.
Climate change is forecast to have a massive impact on species around the world, especially endangered ones, which are already rare.
A majority of the organisms listed under the Endangered Species Act are plants and lichen.
But researchers found that the risk that climate change poses to endangered plants has not been systematically evaluated in over a decade.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University adapted existing assessment tools used to examine the threat of climate change for wild animals and applied them to 771 listed plant species.
Specifically, the Penn State team evaluated how sensitive the listed plants and lichens were to climate change, if climate change was recognized as a threat for each species and if actions were underway to address the threat.
The researchers discovered that all listed plant and lichen species are at least “slightly threatened” by climate change.
While a majority of the documentation for the species recognized climate change as a threat, the team discovered that there were few actions being taken to protect the listed species.
Study leader Amy Wrobleski said: “We evaluated the conservation plans for all endangered plant and lichen species listed in the Endangered Species Act and found that while climate change is recognized as a threat to the species, few conservation plans include actions to address climate change directly.
“Climate change will not only impact the lives of people but also rare and endangered species and the ecosystems we interact with every day.”
Ms Wrobleski, a doctoral student in ecology, added “While acknowledging the threat that climate change poses to rare plants is an important first step, direct action must be taken to ensure the recovery of many of these species.
“As conditions continue to shift over the next century, clear and focused objectives will become even more vital for successful species recovery.”
The team urged that their findings, published in the journal PLOS Climate, should be used to aid in conservation planning for endangered plants and lichens and to inform future recommendations for listing species and planning their recovery.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker