Due to the multiple uses and illegal trading, many cactus species are on the path to extinction due to illegal trading be it to horticulture or private collectors. It’s unfortunate that the arid climate is often overlooked, and cacti often fall out of sight and out of mind where it concerns conservation plans.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over 50% of the world’s 1,480 cactus species have fallen into human use. That has led to a rapid and unfortunate decline in their numbers. The blame has fallen on illegal trading and poaching, along with their numerous uses in several areas.
Overlooking the attraction of the their flowers or overall impressive aspect that make them a target for ornamental displays, many species are used for medicine or food. That particular practical feature is only fueled by illegal activities and unsustainable harvesting. It places around 47% of the threatened species at risk.
Now, according to the IUCN, 31% of the cactus species on our planet are inching closer to extinction.
They are distinctive and highly useful plants that play a significant role in arid ecosystems. Cacti prove vital water and food sources for multiple species across the dry planes, due their exquisite abilities to harvest it and ways of preserving it. The spines defend the plant against animals from potentially harming it, but they can be easily bypassed by humans.
Due to national and international trading of the plants, both their species and the ecosystems they aid are now in danger. The trade is often illegal, and 86% of the threatened cacti are shipped to be used in holticulture. The rest are sent over for ornamental purposes, with beautiful flowers, unique aspect and, sometimes, for their rarity. Pollinators cannot reach them to help reproduction.
Reportedly, European and Asian markets are the biggest buyers, where just one plant can go for around $1,000. They are plucked from the wild and sent over to various uses. Now, the arid areas where they once thrived are nearly losing the integrity of their ecosystem. The plants are no longer able to help, so their entire diversity is under threat.
According to Barbara Goettsch, from the IUCN, they had not expected cacti to be “so highly threatened” and have illegal trading to be this major of a reason that causes their fast decline. Their species are vulnerable to disruptions because they take a long time to mature, so any harvesting gravely impacts their population.
The study emphasizes the need for better management of their population, as the cacti cannot sustain the high levels of collecting, a market where they have fallen as victims.
Image source: datvietflower.com