How Will Climate Change Affect American Ginseng?


Studies suggests that American ginseng will be especially susceptible to ongoing climate change.

Because of decades of overharvest and illegal poaching, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closely monitors the harvest of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.). The threat of ginseng endangerment just got worse, however, as researchers now expect a strong link between ginseng decline and climate change.

Previous studies have found that American ginseng populations are locally adapted to temperature, but a seven-year analysis of 30 American ginseng populations, spanning numerous latitudes and longitudes, provides some of the strongest research yet.

“In simulations that included harvest and climate change, extinction risk at the median population size was 65%, far exceeding the additive effects of the two factors,” said the researchers from the University of Wisconsin and West Virginia University. Chief among the predicted causes of ginseng decline was a reduction of ginseng plant growth to the large-adult stage. The researchers hope their findings will encourage pre-emptive adoption of new harvesting laws to protect American ginseng populations before their populations decline faster.

In 1975, American ginseng was placed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This established a management program for ginseng, which included new restrictions on harvest and encouragement of selective harvest tactics such as only farming reproductive individuals bearing ripe berries.


Robby Gardner
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook magazine

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