World's biodiversity becoming extinct at levels rivaling Earth's past 'mass extinctions'

International Botanical Congress President Calls for Seven-Point Plan To Reverse Alarming Rates of Plant Species Losses

ST. LOUIS, MO, August 2, 1999 -- A compilation of the latest data on extinction rates of plant and animal life around the world reports that humanity's impact on the earth has increased extinction rates to levels rivaling the five mass extinctions of past geologic history. The paper was released today by the President of the International Botanical Congress, Peter Raven, PhD, who is a world leader in plant conservation. It predicts that between one-third and two-thirds of all plant and animal species, most in the tropics, will be lost during the second half of the next century. The paper calls for an eight-point plan to arrest species loss within plant ecosystems.

"Human efforts have been notable for their lack of attention to the living world that supports us all," said Raven, who is also Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. "In the face of the worldwide extinction crisis, we should redouble our efforts to learn about life on Earth while it is still relatively well represented."

More than 4,000 scientists from 100 countries are meeting at the International Botanical Congress this week to discuss the latest results of research on plants for human survival and improved quality of life. Raven's remarks were made at a press briefing held prior to the "Millennium Symposium," where the paper, "Plants in Peril: What Should We Do?" will be formally presented to the Congress.

Over the past several centuries, the documented extinction rates of a wide range of well-known groups of organisms are several times higher than the background rate or rate at which species have been becoming extinct for the past 65 million years, since the major extinction event that closed the Cretaceous Period and the Mesozoic Era, which coincided with the loss of the last surviving dinosaurs. This was the fifth major extinction event in

Contact: Ellen Wilson or Dennis Kelly
XVI International Botanical Congress

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