• Mass Extinction Crisis: The Gravest Global Threat
  • 1. Mass Extinction Crisis-global scenario
    • An extinction event (also known as a mass extinction or biotic crisis) is a widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth. Mass extinction can also be described as the extinction of a large number of species within a relatively short period of geological time, thought to be due to factors such as a catastrophic global event or widespread environmental change that occurs too rapidly for most species to adapt. There have been five mass extinction events in Earth's history, "many scientists are now predicting that we are on track for a sixth mass extinction (Table-A). The world's species already seem to be vanishing at an unnaturally rapid rate” (Source: The Washington Post, February 11, 2014).

      Table- A: The Mass Extinction Events on Earth

      Rank Extinction Event Approximate Time of Occurrence Major Effects
      1 Ordovician–Silurian Extinction 439 million years ago
    • 86% of life on Earth was wiped out.
    • Scientists believe two major events resulted in this extinction: glaciations and falling sea levels.
    • Some theories suggest that the Earth was covered in such a vast quantity of plants that they removed too much carbon dioxide from the air which drastically reduced the temperature. Falling sea levels were possibly a result of the Appalachian mountain range forming.
    • 2 Late Devonian Extinction. 364 million years ago
    • Around 75% species were lost.
    • Giant land plants are thought to be responsible as their deep roots released nutrients into the oceans.
    • The nutrient rich waters resulted in mass amounts of algal blooms which depleted oxygen of the seas and therefore, animal life.
    • 3 Permian-Triassic extinction 251 million years ago
    • This extinction is considered the worst in all history because around 96% of species were lost. Life today descended from the 4% of surviving species.
    • Ancient coral species were completely lost.
    • The ‘Great Dying’ was caused by an enormous volcanic eruption that field the air with carbon dioxide which fed diffrent kinds of bacteria that began emitting large amounts of methane.
    • The Earth warmed and the oceans became acidic.
    • 4 Triassic-Jurassic extinction Between 199 million to 214 million years ago.
    • As in other mass extinctions, it is believed there were several phases of species loss due to asteroid impact, climate change and flood basalt eruptions.
    • During the beginning of this era, mammals outnumbered dinosaurs. By the end, dinosaurs’ ancestors (archosaurs) reigned the earth’s surface.
    • This extinction laid the path that allowed for the evolution of dinosaurs which later existed for around 135 million years.
    • 5 Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction 65 million years ago
    • Cretaceous-Paleogene brought on the extinction of dinosaurs.
    • A combination of volcanic activity, asteroid impact, and climate change effectively ended 76% of life on earth.
    • This extinction period allowed for the evolution of mammals on land and sharks in the sea.
    • 6 Holocene extinction Present
    • According to a good number of Scientists, the world is in the Holocene era, plants and animals are dying off at abnormally fast rates and life as we know it is in danger.
    • This time, however, the cause is not volcanic activity nor asteroid impacts. Human activity is triggering a change in global climate which has increased species extinction to between 10 and 100 times faster than the norm. The evidence is pretty clear; we are headed toward the 6th mass extinction.
    • (Source:

      A major of the American's biologists are convinced that, a "mass extinction" of plants and animals is underway that poses a major threat to humans in the 21st century. According to The Washington Post, April 21, 1998, "the rapid disappearance of species was ranked as one of the planet's gravest environmental worries, surpassing pollution, global warming and thinning of the Ozone layer, according to the servey of 400 scientists commissioned by New York's American Museum of Natural History" "The Earth is in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of both plants and anmimals, with nearly 50 percent of all species disappearing”, scientists say (Source: Science Daily, October 21, 2008).

      Plants and animals in the seas and oceans are also at risk of mass extinction for various reason."The world's oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests. The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted, because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses,ranging from climate warmin and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing" (Source: Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor, The Independent, June 20, 2011).

      "Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the seas - at least a third of the carbon that humans have released has been dissolved in this way, and makes them more acidic” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."The oceans are becoming more acidic at the fastest rate in 300 million years, due to carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, and a mass extinction of key species may already be almost inevitable as a result” (Source: The Guardian, October 03, 2013).

      Furthermore, recent studies revealed, “an increasing number of pollinating mammal and bird species are moving towards extinction”, according to the first study of its kind(Source: BBC, March 6, 2015).

      "A decline in pollinator abundance and diversity can result in a loss of pollination services that could signaficantly affect the maintenance of wild plant diversity, wider ecosystem stability, crop production, food security, and human welfare” (Kremenet al. 2002; Garibaldi et al. 2013).

      “On an average, 2.4 species per year have moved one red list category towards extinction in recent decades,representing a substantial increase in extinction risk across this set of species, report the scientist. This may be impacting the delivery of benefits that these species provide to people"(Source:"Global trends in the Status of Bird and Mammal Pollinators", Eugenie et al., Conservation Letters, March27, 2015).

      BBC News, November 20, 2015 reported, "More than half of all tree species in the Amazon face extinction, warn international scientists”. According to new data, "up to 57% of all Amazonian trees may already fit the criteria of being globally threatened". "21% of all plants are at risk of extinction and face a broad range of threats” (Source: BBC, May 10, 2016).

  • 2. Mass Extinction Crisis-status of medicinal plants
    • Importance & Contribution of Medicinal Plants

      Medicinal plants play a very vital role for human & animal health care and also healthy environment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) up to 80% of developing country populations rely on traditional/herbal medicines for their primary health care. Global herbal market is around US$70.5 billion which is growing rapidly with an average annual growth rate of 10-12%. The world Bank estimated global trade of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants and their products at US$5 trillion by 2050. Medicinal plant cultivation may be an effective tool for proverty allevation, self-employment and women empowerment in the rural area by utilizing marginal fallow land.

      Number of drug molecules from plants used in modern medicines 121(1995); 130(1997); 143(2000); 166(2006); 170(2008).
      61% of the small molecule - New Chemical Entities (NCE) introduced as drugs world wide during 1981-2000 can be traced to or were inspired by natural products.
      In both 2001 and 2002, about one quarter of the best selling drugs worldwide were natural products or derived from natural products (Butler 2004).

      Therapeutic Classification of Herbal Drugs

      23 New drugs derived from natural sources have been launched on the market during 2000-2005 after having been approved for the treatment of Cancer, Neurological, Cardiovascular, Infections, Metabolic, Immunological, Inflammatory Diseases and Genetic Disorders.

      Impact of Mass Extinction of Medicinal Plants

      From the above scenario it is clear that, the medicine industries regardless of traditional or modern medicines dependent on natural sources i.e. medicinal plants. "But some 15,000 of 50,000 medicinal species are under threat of extinction”, according to a report from international conservation group – Plant life. Shortages have been reported in China, India, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda which countries are well known among the big suppliers and also consumers of herbal materials. Many important medicinal plants are at risk include the Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana), a source of the anti-cancer drug, paclitaxel; the pepper-bark tree (Warburgia), which yields an anti-malarial; and the African cherry (Prunus africana), an extract from which is used to treat a prostate condition. If this current trend of medicinal plant species loss continues the consequences would be terrible in the near future. “The loss of medicinal plant diversity is a quiet disaster", says Sara Oldfield, Secretary General of NGO Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

      Mass extinction of medicinal plant species from the nature might lead human and animal health at serious risk and also the whole ecosystem could be disrupted.

  • 3. Mass Extinction Crisis-Bangladesh scenario
    • Bangladesh possesses a good species diversity of flora and fauna. The topical semi-evergreen forests in the country are botanically amongst the richest in the Indian subcontinent, and they also support a good diversityof mammals and great diversity of birds. "For a small country like Bangladesh, the species richness is relatively large but population size of most of the species has declined drastically” (Source: Overview of Biodiversity Status, Trends and Threats,

      Among the plant species in Bangladesh, medicinal plants are in a most critical status even though these plants are essentially needed for human and animal health care and also overall ecosystem. According to a recent research, significant changes in land use/ land cover evident in some forest areas of the country resulting in mass extinction crisis of defferent species including most commonly used medicinal plants. There are many causes for the drastic decline of most of the species some of which are as under:

      Changes in land use
      Massive deforestation
      High intensity of pollution
      Introduction of invasive alien species
      Unsustainable exploitation of resources and weak management system
      Gaps in spatial information
      Lack of public awareness etc.

      In light of the global commitment towards Sustainable Development, Bangladesh too is focused on ensuring sustainable production and consumption, as well as ensuring environmental sustainability. One of the core targets of Bangladesh’s 7th Five Year Plan in the context of vision 2021 is pursuing environmental friendly development. The National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) of the country identified Environment, Natural Resource and Disaster Management as one of the Strategic Priority Areas.

  • 4. ACME's Initiatives for Medicinal Plant Cultivation
    • The ACME Laboratories Ltd. has been manufacturing both allopathic and herbal medicines for human and animal (Livestock) healthcare. The Company started medicinal plant cultivation activities as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and also to procure quality herbs produced as per WHO guideline in respect of Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) since long for improving health of human, animal and environment and also for contributing towards the risks mitigation initiatives regarding extinction crisis of medicinal plants in Bangladesh.

      Major initiatives of ACME regarding medicinal plant cultivation are as under:

    • ACME piloted medicinal plant cultivation in marginal/fallow land involving a few poor and marginal farmers of Bogra and Gaibandha district from 2006-07 which was first of its kind in Bangladesh.
    • Series of trainings were imparted every year to the medicinal plant Local Service Providers/growers on cultivation & post harvest technique of five important medicinal plant species such as, Basak, Ashwagandha, Kalomegh, Tulsi and Shotomuli including WHO guidelines on Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) for medicinal plants.
    • In order to increase the income level of the medicinal plant growers and for contributing to the environmental health and biodiversity conservation, ACME as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) undertook a dedication project namely Social, Environmental and Economic Development (SEED) project as an initiative for meeting challenges of extinction crisis of medicinal plants in Bangladesh.
    • A feasibility study has been conducted by ACME’s Social, Environmental and Economic Development (SEED) project in the new areas with a view to assess the status of medicinal plant cultivation and marketing system in those areas. The study findings were instrumental of expanding selected medicinal plant cultivation in the new areas including those medicinal plants which are facing extinction crisis.
    • ACME signed agreement with two International NGOs namely, United Purpose (Formerly known as Concern Universal) and HEVETAS Swiss Interco-operation in order to ignite cultivation of different medicinal plant species throughout the country for improving health of human, animal, environment and biodiversity.
    • In order to develop human resources an uphold the knowledge and skills of the medicinal plant Local Service Providers (LSP)/ moderately literate growers SEED project of ACME developed a comprehensive training manual for field level trainers titled, "প্রশিক্ষন নির্দেশিকা - নির্বাচিত ঔষধি উদ্ভিদের পরিচিতি ও চাষাবাদ" in line with WHO guidelines on Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) for medicinal plants. The manual focused on identification of different medicinal plants, their cultivation & collection procedures together with integrated pest management technology. The training manual has been used by the concerned resource persons and the trainees as well in the Training of Trainers (ToT) programmes at different locations of the country. Local service Providers/Collectors participated in these ToT programmes with a view to eventually transferring the training learning to the marginal farmers of their respective areas.
    • SEED project of ACME developed another training manual namely, "ঔষধি উদ্ভিদ চাষিদের জন্য ব্যবহারিক শিক্ষা” targeting the illiterate and semi-illiterate farmers which focused on Bengali alphabet learning, identification of different medicinal plants & their cultivation technique and other practical topics useful to their daily life (e.g. basic mathematics, weight & measures, primary health care, sanitation etc.). Local Service Providers/Collectors participated in these ToT programmes in order to eventually transferring their training learning to the illiterate and semi-illiterate medicinal plant growers of their respective territory by organizing Uthan boithak/Lawn meeting.
    • A well-structured medicinal plant collection and supply chain model was developed led by ACME where Local Service Propiders(LSPs)/Collectors are working as a bridge between the Company and the marginal farmers.
    • In order to meet the consistent practice of maintaining the quality standard of herbal raw materials while collection and storage the Company extended its support regarding establishing Primary Collection & Multipurpose Centers and Sub Centers in the new areas of medicinal plant cultivation.
    • Due to well understanding, good coordination and unique relationship between ACME and the medicinal plant growers despite of several constraints and natural disasters thousands of small and marginal farmers predominantly women have been producing huge quantity of selective herbs. They are regularly supplying medicinal plant materials to ACME and other medicine manufacturing companies of the country. It has become an additional source of income of the medicinal plant growers and helping them to become self-reliant. During the year 2016-17, ACME procured substantially more quantity of selective herbs than previous years directly from the medicinal plant growers of different project areas in Bangladesh.
    • ACME has been rewarding the best performing Local Service Providers (LSP)/Collectors recognizing their services to the marginal farmers related to medicinal plant cultivation and collection.
    • The country continued cash incentive scheme for medicinal plant growers and collectors like previous years with a view to accelerate medicinal plant cultivation more fully, poverty alleviation, self-employment and women empowerment.
    • Recently the Company has taken initiative on trial basis for collecting honey from selective medicinal plants growing areas in order to diversify the product range of medicinal plant farmers so that additional income can be generated and superior quality of honey can be procured from the medicinal plant sources.