The 2022 Living Planet Report (LPR) contains the largest and most recent dataset on observed vertebrate species declines, while Kew scientists estimate that 2 in 5 plants worldwide are at risk of extinction. Credit: Left: MATTHEW POLEY/ANDRY DIEB/WWF-BRAZIL Right: RBG KEW

In a report published today by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the National Herbarium of Guinea-UGANC highlight initiatives to protect biodiversity and support the well-being of local communities in West Africa, including countries such as the Republic of Guinea.

According to the latest and largest dataset released in WWF’s Living Planet Report 2022, observed populations of wild animals—mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish—have declined by 69% since 1970, based on an analysis of populations of nearly 32,000 species. Further adding to this bleak picture of the planet’s health, RBG Kew’s State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2020 report shows that 2 out of 5 plants worldwide are threatened with extinction.

WWF, RBG Kew and partners are now calling on governments, businesses and the public to take action against the current biodiversity crisis. Some of the biggest threats to nature today are land-use change, habitat destruction, and overexploitation of plants and animals. However, scientists warn climate change could be an even greater cause of biodiversity loss in the coming years if global warming is not limited to 1.5C.

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, says that “we are facing a twin emergency: human-induced climate change and biodiversity loss, which threaten the well-being of current and future generations. WWF is deeply concerned by these new data, which show a devastating drop in populations wild animals, in particular, Art tropical regions which are home to some of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world.’

Tropics in crisis: Scientists call for conservation of Guinea's native plants in WWF report

Daniellia oliveri trees in Beila Prefecture, Guinea. 96% of the country’s original forest was cleared by the 1990s, and deforestation continues today. Author: RBG KEW

The tropics are one of the most diverse places on the planet, home to an incredible variety of animals, plants and fungi. Plants, however, are often underrepresented in global conservation efforts, highlighting the need to disclose data on their diversity and distribution for more informed conservation policies. Aiding this effort is the TIPA program launched at RBG Kew in partnership with Plantlife International, where Kew scientists and partners work together, country by country, to identify areas of indispensable plant diversity in terms of threatened species, including those with socio-economic importance, as well as endangered habitats.

Such programs are not only critical for nature conservation, but they can also support the propagation and planting of “useful” native plant species that improve the cultural and economic well-being of local communities. In Guinea, for example, the fruits and nuts of many trees were traditionally collected in wild forests. Unfortunately, by the 1990s, rampant deforestation had cleared 96% of Guinea’s original forests.

Denise Molmou, National Herbarium of Guinea and lead author of the LPR chapter, says that “Guinea is a country with significant biological diversity. This diversity is being irrationally exploited and degraded at a significant rate as a result of human activities. In 2021, 167kHa of the Global Forest Service recorded a loss tree cover”.

“The primary causes of this destruction are forest fires, slash-and-burn agriculture, charcoal, logging, mining and urbanization, all accentuated by increasing population pressure on resources. The diversity of forests plays different roles in the socio-economic life of the country. population of Guinea. They play a vital role in most aspects of people’s daily lives, providing them with food, fiber, medicine, fuel, shelter, clothing and even the air we breathe.’

WWF’s Living Planet Report 2022: How much wildlife have we lost? Author: WWF International

Now scientists are warning that demand for edible nuts such as tola (Beilschmiedia mannii), peti kola (Garcinia kola) and bansuma ginger plum (Neocarya macrophylla) is outstripping available supply. This is a cause for concern as these nuts are a vital and highly valued source of nutrition that can support human health.

Initiatives are now underway in Guinea to introduce these species, along with endangered trees, into the buffer zones of three declared Tropical Plant Important Areas (TIPA). Scientists believe that this approach gives local communities an incentive to conserve nature while providing better access to food and economic benefits from the harvest. Protecting the well-being of local communities in Guinea is a vital aspect of Kew’s RBG conservation works as the country ranks one of the lowest on the Human Development Index.

Charlotte Couch, Project Officer: Guinea’s Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPA) at Kew, says that “more than 60% of Guinea’s population lives in rural areas and depends on natural products for products and medicines. They are sold in the markets of regional cities and are in great demand. Government and private sector need to promote the planting of these non-timber forest products and other native species in their reforestation programs to invest in people to improve their livelihoods as custodians of these species.”

Martin Cheek, Senior Researcher at Kew’s Africa Group, adds that “we need to act now to support the local communities around TIPA to protect the natural habitat by using it sustainably, otherwise they will have no choice but to how to continue to degrade and clean it.”

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Additional information:

Citation: Tropics in crisis: Scientists call for conservation of Guinea’s indigenous plants in WWF Living Planet Report 2022 (2022, October 12) Retrieved October 12, 2022, from -scientists- guinea-indigenous.html

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