Scientists discover 1,730 new plant species globally: Report

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Some 1,730 new plant species were discovered globally in the past year, some of which have food and medicinal value, according to an annual report released Thursday by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew).

Involving 128 scientists from 12 countries, RBG Kew's State of the Worlds Plants report presents data never seen before on patterns affecting plants in different regions.

New species of Manihot were discovered in Brazil that have the potential to be developed into better food crops, and new species of the climbing vine genus Mucuna, used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, were found in South East Asia and South and Central America, according to the report.

"We've tried to make sure that this year's State of the World's Plants report goes beyond the numbers to look at the natural capital of plants -- how they are relevant and valuable to all aspects of our lives," said Kathy Willis, director of science at RBG Kew.

The report also reveals that plants with thicker leaves and bark, more efficient water use, deeper roots, and higher wood density are better able to cope with future climate change.

"It's a different way of thinking, to look across biomes and examine which traits plants already possess that allow some to better tolerate the cocktail of climate change that will impact our ecosystems," said Willis, who led the team which authored the report's chapter on climate change.

Meanwhile, the report also highlights information on how new technology is helping to speed up the discovery and classification of plants that are providing important sign posts to the next food crops, the effectiveness of conservation policies and actions in protecting some of the most important plant species globally.

For example, the sequence for one of the most widely used herbal medicines, Chinese liquorice, was revealed in 2017.

Extinction risk is also examined in the report. It argues that reliable predictors of extinction risk are needed to improve conservation planning.

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