Habitat Loss

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By far the most significant threat to plant species is habitat loss or destruction. Habitat loss can occur because of resource harvesting for food, medicine, and other products, deforestation, and the conversion of wilderness for agricultural, industrial, or urban uses. Wood consumption and tree clearing for agriculture and development threaten the world's forests, especially the tropical forests, which may disappear by the mid-twenty-first century if sufficient preventive action is not taken. Natural disasters, such as climatic changes, meteorites, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, drought, hurricanes, and tornados, also can be devastating to a habitat.

In Europe and Asia, the plant distribution is complex, with isolated populations of plants spread across a large area. The plants are greatly influenced by the cold climate and by humans. Plant species are disappearing, especially in Europe and the Mediterranean, because of habitat destruction and disturbances including urbanization, road construction, overgrazing, cultivation, forest plantation, fire, pollution, and overexploitation of resources, or for use in horticulture.

The mountain plants are threatened by development for industry and tourism, pollution, strip mining, walkers, and skiers. The wetlands are threatened by removal of peat for fuel, water ex-

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Clemente broom, bush mallow (Malacothamnus Greene), a species of larkspur, and the San Clemente Island Indian paintbrush (Castilleja grisea), have been devastated by introduced grazers, browsers, and by invasive other plants. In Hawaii, more than 90 percent of native plants and almost all land birds and invertebrates are found nowhere else in world. The Hawaiian red-flowered geranium (Geranium arboreum) is threatened by introduced feral pigs, agricultural livestock, and competition by nonna-tive plants.

In developing or highly populated nations in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean islands, Australia, and New Zealand, habitat loss occurs because of population needs. Land is cleared for agriculture, develop

A Sampling of the World's

Endangered Plant Species

Common Name

Scientific Name


African teak

Pericopsis elata

Semideciduous forests of Central and West Africa

Almug or red sandalwood

Pterocarpus santalinus

Forests of India

Atlas or Moroccan cypress

Cupressus atlantica

Dry woodland on steep slopes of the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Bastard quiver tree or Basterkokerboom

Aloe pillansii

Hot and arid areas of Namibia and South Africa

Camphor tree

Dryobalanops aromatica

Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra

Carossier palm

Attalea crassispatha

Haiti's southwestern peninsula in scrub forest and agricultural land

Clay's hibiscus

Hibiscus clayi

Dry forests in a few locations on some of the Hawaiian Islands

Commoner lignum vitae or guaiac tree

Guaiacum officinale

Lowland dry forests and coastland areas of Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela

Cook's holly

Ilex cookii

Puerto Rican cloud forests on ridgetops of Monte Javuya in Toro Negro State Park and Cerro de Punta

Dall's pittosporum

Pittosporum dallii

Rocky creeks in the mountains of New Zealand

Dragon's blood tree

Dracaena cinnabari

Woodland areas in the center and east of Socotra Island near Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea


Diospyros mun

Limestone mountains in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Vietnam

Egyptian papyrus

Cyperus papyrus hadidii

Shallow, freshwater marshes in Egypt

Fiddlewood or yax-nik

Vitex gaumeri

Damp forests with limestone or pine ridges in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico

Four-petal pawpaw

Asimina tetramera

Scrub vegetation near the Atlantic coast in Florida


Gigasiphon macrosiphon

Tropical forests on the coastal plains of Kenya and Tanzania


Ginkgo biloba

Temperate forests in southern China

Hainan sonmeratia

Sonneratia hainanensis

Mangrove forests in Wenchang County, Hainan, China

ment, and population resettlement. In Central America and the Caribbean, the Swietenia mahogany is found only in a few protected or remote areas. The Caoba tree (Persea theobromifolia) was newly identified as a species as recently as 1977. The lumber is commercially important, and habitat loss has occurred as a result of the conversion of forests to banana and palm plantations. In Ecuador, only 6 percent of the original rain forest remains standing, because the rest has been converted to farmland. In Asia, including the Philippines, population pressures bring about deforestation and the clearing of land for agriculture.

In southern Africa, land is used for crops, livestock, and firewood production. Overgrazing and the introduction of agriculture have caused the Sahara Desert area to grow rapidly. The island of Madagascar has between ten thousand and twelve

Common Name

Scientific Name


Hawaiian gardenia

Gardenia brighamii

Dry forest on the island of Kauai, Hawaii

Horseshoe fern

Marattia salicina nov

Lord Howe Island, Australia

Ley's whitebeam

Sorbus leyana

Carboniferous limestone cliffs in southern Breconshire, Wales

Madeira net-leaf orchid

Goodyera macrophylla

Cliffs and ravines in humid, maritime climate of Madeira, Portugal

Mellblom's spider orchid

Caladenia hastata

Coastal areas near Portland, Victoria, Australia

Millionaire's salad

Deckenia nobilis

Lowland forests of the Seychelles Islands off the east coast of Africa

Mongarlowe mallee

Eucalyptus recurva

Near Mongarlowe in New South Wales, Australia

Nubian dragon tree

Dracaena ombet

Tropical forests near the Red Sea Hills in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, East Africa

Saharan cypress

Cupressus dupreziana

Tassili N'Ajjer National Park, Algeria

Taiwan trident maple

Acer buergerianum ssp. formosanum

Lowland evergreen forest of Taiwan

Tennessee purple coneflower

Echinacea tennesseensis

Red cedar glades and dry environments in forest openings of Tennessee

Virginia round-leaf birch

Betula uber

Second-growth forest along Cressy Creek in Virginia

West Himalayan elm

Ulmus walliciana

Temperate areas near streams, rivers, and wetlands in Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, India


Anthoceros neesii

Clay-loam soils in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland


Diplocolea sikkimensis

Tropical rain forests in India (Sikkim) and Nepal


Distichophyllum carinatum

Temperate mixed forests of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, China (Sichuan), Japan


Andrewsianthus ferrugineus

Coniferous forest of Bhutan, Nepal

Source: Compiled from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of endangered species at the web site www.redlist.org (homepage www.iucn.org), and Encyclopedia of Endangered Species, edited by Bill Freedman, volume 2 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1999).

Source: Compiled from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of endangered species at the web site www.redlist.org (homepage www.iucn.org), and Encyclopedia of Endangered Species, edited by Bill Freedman, volume 2 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1999).

thousand plant species, of which 80 percent grow nowhere else in the world. Because of conversion to grassland through farming methods, only about one-fifth of the original species survive. In Australia there are 1,140 rare or threatened plants, and logging, clearing for grazing animals and crops, building developments, and mining have threatened many native species.

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