Cactus the sturdy plant which is adapted for the vagaries of extreme climate and can survive the harshest desert environment has become the fifth most threatened species on the planet now. Climate change caused by human activities and illegal trade has sent this class of plants to the brink of extinction.
Christian Science Monitor reports a study which was published on Tuesday which labels the cactus plant as the fifth most threatened species on earth. Nearly one third of all cactus species are threatened by extinction.
The fact that 31% of the cactus species are facing extinction makes it one of the most threatened species more than mammals or birds. The current decline has been blamed on cattle ranching and illegal trading of the xerophytes plant. The illegal trade includes stately saguaro of the Southwest to the mistletoe cactus – the only species not found in the Americas.
Barbara Goettsch, lead author said in a release by the University of Exeter that the results came as a shocker and no one was prepared to believe that the robust and hardy plant could be so highly threatened. The fact that illegal trade could be a cause for its decline was even more far fetched.
Cactus has a direct impact on the America’s ecosystems. Chihuahuan Desert of the Southwest has a quarter of the cactus species of the world. Arizona State has in place measures to protect the iconic plant, the plant is facing the brunt from landscaping enthusiasts and all-out cactus theft.
The Chihuahuan Desert has one of the most biologically varied deserts in the world. It is also houses a quarter of Cactus species. The present laws are too complex and contradictory and according to experts there is a need for streamlining the laws. This will encourage legitimate nurseries to prosper and work toward sustainable production and exporting of cacti.