WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- More than two thirds of the world's plant species can be saved by protecting keys regions that comprise just 17 percent of land, a study said Thursday.
Researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom used computer models to identify the smallest stretches of land that could contain the largest number of plant species.
They found that two of the most ambitious goals set forth by the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity -- to protect 60 percent of Earth's plant species and 17 percent of its land surface -- are achievable but with "one major caveat."
"We need to protect more of the places where plant species are concentrated," said Professor Stuart Pimm at the Duke University, a co-author of the study.
Pimm said that plant species aren't evenly distributed across the planet with certain areas having much higher concentrations of "endemic species," or those which are found nowhere else.
"Our study identifies regions of importance," Pimm said.
"The logical -- and very challenging -- next step will be to make tactical local decisions within those regions to secure the most critical land for conservation," he said.
To identify which of Earth's regions contain the highest concentrations of endemic species, relative to their geographic size, the researchers analyzed data on more than 100,000 different species of flowering plants, compiled by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England.
The regions identified as particularly rich in species include about 75 percent of the world's plant species, as well as most bird, mammal and amphibian species, the researchers said. It's made up of many islands, as well as the northern Andes Mountains, the Caribbean, Central America and certain parts of Africa and Asia.
"We ... mapped where the greatest numbers of small-ranged birds, mammals and amphibians occur, and found that they are broadly in the same places we show to be priorities for plants," said Clinton Jenkins, a research scholar at the North Carolina State University.
"So preserving these lands for plants will benefit many animals, too," Jenkins said.
The findings appear in the U.S. journal Science.