A third of cacti could end up extinct: humans to blame

Cacti (cactuses, if you will) are facing mass extinction, according to a new report. Nearly 30 percent of the water-sipping spiny plants could be a thing of the past due to a combination of farms in arid regions and illegal trade. The extinction risk isn't limited to one or two types of cacti, either — a wide variety of species could succumb to the pressure. Of the 1,478 cactus species scientists looked at, 31 percent of them were found to have some risk of extinction.

A team of international researchers worked together on the project, according to Reuters, which interviewed the lead author Barbara Goettsch. She said, "We were surprised to find that such a high proportion of cactus species are threatened ... and by the diversity of [the] threats."

Those threats include cattle ranch on dry arid landscapes, urban sprawl into such regions, roads and other types of farming, and illegal plant trades; cacti habitats from the US down through South America are at risk. Certain cacti species are not allowed to be traded, or are heavily regulated — their forbidden status, low habitat numbers, and/or beautiful blooms create a demand for them, however, hence the illegal trading.

These human pressures put cacti at a higher risk of extinction (due to the human element) than humans themselves, birds, and mammals. Some other plants and creatures have a higher risk of extinction than cacti, however, including amphibians, cycads, and conifers.

SOURCE: Reuters