Ecologist suggests wild approach to selling threatened plants

September 24, 2018 by Evelyn S. Gonzalez, Florida International University
Hong Liu (left) and her students Haydee Borerro (center) and Jason Downing (right) conduct research in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in 2014. Credit: Florida International University

Selling plants could save them from extinction. The key is growing them in their natural habitats, not on private properties or nurseries, according to FIU conservation ecologist Hong Liu.

The goal is to sell some and leave the rest to replenish populations in nature. The restoration-friendly, small-scale cultivation scheme could provide the plants needed for food, medicine, decorations and other uses to customers while generating income for farmers and giving threatened plants a chance at survival, she said.

"We're not calling for the small-scale cultivation of all ," Liu said. "A lot of times, people take plants that have historical and cultural value. So, nuanced policies are needed that take the plants, the intended-use of the plants and market demand into consideration. If we don't do something, the wild populations will probably go extinct."

The research team led by Liu examined 200 species of plants throughout Canada, China, India, Mexico, the United States and a number of developing nations. Environmental degradation and over-exploitation are the two biggest drivers of plant extinction throughout the world. Plants make up the majority of species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the world's most comprehensive status inventory. Most commercial cultivation studies focus on animals, so Liu says more research must be done on the same concepts for plant conservation.

The study was recently published in Conservation Biology. Liu is a researcher in FIU's International Center for Tropical Botany and professor in the Department of Earth and Environment. The International Center for Tropical Botany is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of tropical through research, education and outreach. It is a partnership between FIU and the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Explore further: World's botanic gardens contain a third of all known plant species, and help protect the most threatened

More information: Hong Liu et al. Conservation impacts of commercial cultivation of endangered and overharvested plants, Conservation Biology (2018). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13216

Related Stories

Why plants need an identity

May 24, 2018

Plant experts in South Africa have a challenging deadline to meet: gather everything that's known about the country's 21 000 indigenous plant species into a formal online record by 2020. Fortunately they are well on their ...

Tubers in trouble

December 5, 2017

Extinction by its very nature is irreversible. Once a species is extinct, it's too late for conservation practitioners to act. So, for us working on the front line of plant conservation, instead of just questioning whether ...

Rethinking extinction risk?

May 24, 2011

For more than 40 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has published the Red List of Threatened Species describing the conservation status of various species of animals. They are now also including ...

Recommended for you

After a reset, Сuriosity is operating normally

February 23, 2019

NASA's Curiosity rover is busy making new discoveries on Mars. The rover has been climbing Mount Sharp since 2014 and recently reached a clay region that may offer new clues about the ancient Martian environment's potential ...

Study: With Twitter, race of the messenger matters

February 23, 2019

When NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, the ensuing debate took traditional and social media by storm. University of Kansas researchers have ...

Researchers engineer a tougher fiber

February 22, 2019

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a fiber that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material that could be incorporated into soft robotics, packaging ...

A quantum magnet with a topological twist

February 22, 2019

Taking their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern, kagome magnets are thought to have electronic properties that could be valuable for future quantum devices and applications. Theories predict that some electrons ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.