About 15 000 species of medicinal plants are globally threatened from, amongst others, loss of habitat, overexploitation, invasive species and pollution. Medicinal plants provide income and healthcare to thousands of people around the world. Greater numbers of people rely on traditional medicine, mostly based on herbs, for their primary healthcare than 'conventional' or western medicine.
To conserve this valuable natural resource, IUCN, Plantlife International and TRAFFIC are calling for governments to endorse a revised and updated Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, which aims to halt the continuing loss of the world's plant diversity.
"Medicinal plants secure the livelihood and healthcare of thousands. They are also the key to the conservation of whole habitats which underpin healthy resilient ecosystems, and which can help combat serious problems we face such as soil erosion and flooding, as well as mitigate the effects of climate change," says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group.
Around 80 percent of people in Africa use traditional medicine for primary healthcare. 323,000 households in Nepal alone are involved in the collection of wild medicinal plants to sell for their livelihoods.
Addressing issues such as site management, rights over resources, encouraging cultivation, developing local resource centres, collecting information on medicinal plant markets and improving terms with traders are all key to stopping more plants becoming threatened with extinction under criteria for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
"The key to conserving medicinal plants lies in involving indigenous and local communities because they are the ones who know and value plant resources the most," says Roland Melisch, Global Programme Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC.
"Medicinal plants are highly valued by communities all over the world. It is essential in the next decade that we work towards sustainable collection of this valuable resource, not only for nature conservation but for the well-being and livelihoods of indigenous local communities who depend on those resources' says Elizabeth Radford, International Programme Manager, Plantlife International.