An international team of researchers discovered, nearly one-third of all cactus species face a looming threat of extinction. The study, recently published in the scientific journal Nature Plants, examined populations of nearly 1,500 cactus species, 31 percent of which were deemed at risk of extinction. Collectively, the researchers found that “cacti are among the most threatened taxonomic groups assessed to date.” The study found three main reasons threatening cacti.
Loss of Habitat. As the global human population grows, so does the demand for land, land for people to live on, land for growing crops and land for raising livestock. Consequentially, landowners chop down rare cactus species without much thought to how few remain throughout the world.
Illegal Sale. Thanks to their exotic beauty, cacti are popular purchases in regions where they don’t naturally grow, particularly Europe. Though trade of cacti is largely illegal, because of the hefty prices cacti can fetch (up to $1,000 for a single cactus,) people are willing to take the risk and snatch grown cacti from their natural habitats anyway. In these new non-native environments, buyers often do not understand the conditions necessary to keep them alive, let alone how to help them reproduce, meaning they die out. Additionally, by having fewer cacti in natural habitats, there are far fewer seeds around for new cacti to grow.
Climate Change. Like most life forms on the planet, cacti are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. So far, cacti can withstand the increased temperatures, but they ultimately lose when other desert creatures aren’t as adaptable. For example, some cactus species rely on butterflies for pollination, and with monarch butterflies dying off from climate change, those cacti are under threat.
From Care2 Photo Credit John Vlahakis