According to new research published today (6 October) in Nature Plants, 31 per cent of the 1,478 evaluated cacti species are under threat of extinction, with 99 of those species described as critically endangered. Only cycads, amphibians, corals and conifers face a higher extinction threat.
The research team was led by Barbara Goettsch, co-chairwoman of the IUCN's Cactus and Succulent Plant Specialist Group. Researchers said their results demonstrate the high pressures on the biodiversity of arid lands caused by humans.
"The dominant drivers of extinction risk are the unscrupulous collection of live plants and seeds for horticultural trade and private ornamental collections, smallholder livestock ranching and smallholder annual agriculture," the report says.
It also points out that although many plant species are threatened with extinction in the near future, efforts to conserve plant species are relatively low compared to animal species.