PerspectiveEcology

Plant extinctions take time

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Science  29 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6298, pp. 446-447
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag1794

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Summary

The recent State of the World's Plants report from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1) estimates that 50,000 of the ∼390,000 known vascular plant species are at risk of extinction. Given the rarity of so many plants, coupled with widespread environmental destruction over the past quarter-century, we might expect that a lot of plants should have gone extinct. Indeed, estimates made in the early 1990s suggest that up to 30,000 species should have gone extinct by 2015 (2, 3). Yet, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species database for 2016 has fewer than 150 extinct species. How can we explain this discrepancy?