• The project is part of the Global Genome Initiative, which aims to gather and preserve the DNA of all life on Earth in cryo-storage facilities. There are some 500 plant families and more than 13,000 genera within those groups. Of the world's estimated 11 million species, only two million have been documented, and only 1% of the planet's known genomes have been sequenced.
  • Scientists leading the initiative at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History say it will only take a few months to gather samples from half the world's plant families because they're already growing in botanic gardens. Most can be found within a five-mile (8-km) radius of Washington, DC.
  • The task is urgent because some species are facing extinction. In fact, scientists warn that Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction - the last such event killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. He says it's difficult to measure the rate of plant extinction but some scientists have estimated that all species of life are becoming extinct 100 times faster than normal.

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