World, Environment

Failing on plant health can bring total desertification

Climate change, disrupted ecosystems leading to greater amounts of plant diseases, says experts

Burak Bir   | 26.01.2020
Failing on plant health can bring total desertification


If ensuring plant health is not successful against threats such as climate change, pesticides and degraded ecosystems, the world may face total desertification, according to a biodiversity expert.

"Animals and humans can’t live without plants in an ecosystem ... the final result can be ecosystem collapse, total desertification," Nele Marien, forest and biodiversity coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, told Anadolu Agency.

Speaking on the importance of plant health, on the occasion of the declaration of 2020 as "International Year of Plant Health," she said ecosystems are integral systems, where all parts depend on each other.

"Animals and humans contribute to the healthy functioning of plants in ecosystems," she said, adding that animals and humans also contribute to the healthy functioning of plants in ecosystems.

Mentioning that plants are quite vulnerable part of the ecosystems, Marien said animals, for example can migrate to different place when they face negative conditions such as hotter temperature but plants’ only choice is their offspring which is at a very "slow pace."

"Climate change, and disrupted ecosystem functioning, are leading to increased amounts of plant diseases, sometimes with die-offs of plants (or trees) in extensive areas," she stressed as another threat to plant health.

She went on to say that the loss of insect population which has an important relationship with plants and pesticides are other serious threats to plants.

"In all areas of the world, different plants will be most threatened. Causes can be climate change, desertification, pollution, disrupted symbiotic relationships with other species, invasive species taking away the resources for the plant," she added.

Highlighting that decrease in plant species will make them more vulnerable to diseases, she said that there is a risk of serious decline in the number of plants which leads to less resources available for animals.

"The final result can be ecosystem collapse, total desertification," she said referring to one of the worst case scenario if plant health cannot be ensured.

To achieve "health" solution for sustainable plant health, Marien suggested ensuring the healthy functioning ecosystems with a huge variety of endemic species, reducing the pollution and managing problems actively such as invasive species and disease when they arise will be helpful.

 '10 billion trees lost each year'

"While plants provide food, help regulate water cycles and other benefits to local wildlife, forest wildlife, in turn, provides vital functions to keep forests [and its plants] healthy and productive," William Baldwin-Cantello, global forest practice leader at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), told Anadolu Agency.

Saying that most plants cannot move fast enough to keep in step with climate change that causes key ecosystems and habitats to collapse, he stressed that tens of thousands of plants are at risk of disappearing.

Speaking on trees, as perennial plant species, Baldwin-Cantello said there are only 3 trillion trees around the world at the moment although once there were 6 trillion trees, adding the planet is losing 10 billion trees per year.

"The result is a changing climate, shrinking habitat for wildlife, and making lives harder for billions of people around the world," he added.

Citing the reports that stress forest-dwelling wildlife populations declined by an average of 53% in the last 50 years, Baldwin-Cantello said it shows the huge habitat loss and degradation which is primarily caused by human activity.

"The best way to protect against species loss is to keep global temperature rise as low as possible, and the momentum for restoring our natural environment has been gaining pace because nature is one of the key ways to tackle climate change and secure the future," he said, referring to solutions to wildlife loss.

Highlighting that forests play a key role toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that includes eliminating poverty and hunger, will also be essential to avoiding dangerous climate change results, as part of the nature-based solutions on carbon emission.

"WWF is calling on world leaders to secure a New Deal for Nature and People in 2020 to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, and place nature on the path to recovery by 2030 for the benefit of people and planet," he added.

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