A Further Look into Endangered Species

I found this week’s discussion on the 6th Mass Extinction to be very alarming. It’s a difficult concept to wrap your head around, especially when our day to day lives here in the United States don’t really reflect what’s going on in the rest of the world among fellow humans and all other creatures inhabiting this planet. To get a grasp on the variety of life forms at risk, I did a little research and found some info from the Center of Biological Diversity. I was not able to find many dates on the website, so I am not entirely sure how up to date this information is, but still find it relevant to our current discussion.

Amphibians are very unique creatures in the animal kingdom. They breathe through their skin, thus making them extremely vulnerable to air-borne toxins and pollutants found in water and on land. This makes them an indicator species, one that is very sensitive to environmental conditions. There are roughly 6,300 known species of amphibians that are currently extinct, which is 25,039-45,474 times the background rate (Center for Biological Diversity). Some threats to amphibians include habitat loss, pollution, U.V. exposure, invasive species, and disease.

Birds are another indicator of environmental conditions, especially those regarding the biosphere. In 2009, studies revealed 31% of known species of birds were of concern for endangerment, 12% were considered threatened, and 2% were considered to be at extremely high risk for extinction.

Though we may not always consider the tiny invertebrates of the world, they make up 97% of species on earth. Creatures such as butterflies, mollusks, earthworms, and coral reefs make up this category and face endangerment from habitat loss, pollution, deforestation, soil degradation, and coral bleaching. Of all known invertebrate species, 30% are at risk of extinction.

Fish make up another category of endangered species, at risk from overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and global warming. In North America, 39% of continental freshwater species are endangered and 82% of marine species.

Plants are extremely vital to our survival. They provide oxygen, food, they filter CO2, and provide the vast majority of medicines and products we use every single day. One of the reasons endangered plant species are at higher risk for extinction is that they are not mobile, and cannot relocate when conditions change. There are over 300,000 known plant species in the world, and 68% of them are endangered from climate change, invasive species, deforestation, soil degradation, urbanization, and agriculture.

 

Of all known reptile species in the world, 21% are endangered. 32% of species of the United States are endangered, which constitute 9% of the total number of species. Since there year 1600, 28 species of island reptiles have become extinct from habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change.

Last, but not least, mammals. Our closest relatives, primates, are becoming endangered at an alarming rate. About 90% of these primates live in tropical forests, and at risk from habitat loss due to deforestation and climate change.

“The IUCN estimates that almost 50 percent of the world’s primate species are at risk of extinction. Overall, the IUCN estimates that half the globe’s 5,491 known mammals are declining in population and a fifth are clearly at risk of disappearing forever with no less than 1,131 mammals across the globe classified as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable. In addition to primates, marine mammals — including several species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises — are among those mammals slipping most quickly toward extinction.” (Center for Biological Diversity).

 

With these statistics, we cannot just take a “business as usual” approach about the environmental problems threatening these species, and us. The fact is, we may be on the verge of a 6th Mass Extinction. Realistically, with the rates of loss of unknown species factored into the equation, it has probably already begun.

 

Works Cited

Center for Biological Diversity. (2016, April 8). The Exctintion Crisis. Retrieved from Center for Biological Diversity: http://www.BiologicalDiversity.org

 

7 thoughts on “A Further Look into Endangered Species”

  1. With all the points made in this blog post, I feel like it should be a no thought situation to address this situation. To play the devil’s advocate, I want to explain why this issue may never get addressed. There are a number of people on the planet who are simply ignorant of any sort of damage to the environment from human effects. Unfortunately, quite a few of these people hold pretty high positions in the government and may had quite a bit of say in government activities. These are the people who also would not be able to be convinced of our impacts. Although society is becoming more progressive and aware of our impacts, this percentage of the population will continue to hinder progress.

    1. I hear ya. I don’t know if anyone else can relate, but occasionally I deal with an internal struggle regarding my career choice. Am I really going to be able to make a difference in this world? Realistically, I’m just another drop in the bucket! But then again, this is the same lining of thinking that people use when they don’t vote. It’s also the same line of thinking that applies to the tragedy of the commons and other concepts we’ve learned. I greatly appreciate you playing devil’s advocate, because that is EXACTLY the kind of thing we need to be doing to keep us on our toes and thinking about how we can deal with such challenges. For my counter-argument, I will use the human body as an example to represent the earth. Think of how small a viruses are. We can’t see them with the naked eye, yet it only takes ONE to have a large impact on the human body. It’s the same concept with us and the earth. Even though we are just individuals in a ridiculously huge and growing population, our TINY actions can truly make a difference on the earth we inhabit. In my humble opinion, it is also a mind over matter issue. I truly believe that our thoughts (both positive and negative ones) not only impact our individual realities, but they create them. I know what we are up against….a world ruled by the rich, powerful, and corrupt. But I personally refuse to let this discourage me. I have it in my mind that I will fight to make a positive impact in this world during my time here, and that is what drives me to keep “fighting the good fight.” I encourage all of you to allow yourselves to believe in your abilities to save this planet 🙂 Small actions x Many People = Big Change!

  2. I think statistics and raw numbers can be both good and bad when trying to get a point across. Yes, they are numerically valid and true, but to some people, they can be seen as boring and thus the message is lost on them. I think that visuals are a good way of presenting an argument, such as by showing people firsthand how much damage we’re doing. Unfortunately, it’s hard to show people how much we’ve lost, as you can’t be shown directly what isn’t there.

    1. I definitely agree. A few days after I posted this blog I watched the documentary, “Chasing Ice.” It is about a project launched by James Balog used time-lapse photography to document the extreme recession rates of several glaciers around the world. It was by far the most compelling piece of climate change evidence I have personally encountered in my studies thus far. It also made me realize how powerful visual evidence can be and what an impact it can have on non-believers. You can argue the validity of statistics all day long, but when actually SEE what is happening, it’s much more difficult to deny.

  3. All of these numbers and statistics are incredibly alarming. It is obvious that humans have had a severe impact on biodiversity and that something must be done to counteract the damage we have caused. I fear that one of the problems environmentalists will face is getting people to understand how the loss of biodiversity affects humans, so we must work with human nature, not against it, in order to enact change. Humans will not pay attention or help unless it will somehow help them in return. By helping them understand the vitality of biodiversity in our environment, I feel that we will see a decrease in the number of extinct or endangered species.

    1. I think it’s important as an environmentalist to be aware of what moves people, and what turns them off. I’ve recently learned that sometimes throwing a bunch of statistics at people can be counter-productive, depending on the audience. I’m glad we are all learning different ways to be effective communicators in the environmental world!

  4. I believe that you’re right – it is definitely a little difficult to conceptualize the idea of a 6th mass extinction especially with what some would consider a privileged life that does not usually experience the effects of climate change or environmental degradation. I think you were right to look into the statistics behind the current mass extinction but it is still terrifying to come to terms with. Because of our lives, it is very easy to ignore this issue but there are people around the world who face this as a reality and it is only a matter of time until it may become our reality. It is important that we begin to take steps to combat this probelm and potentially reverse its effects on the world.

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