Scientists say that many species of plants, animals, birds and insects are disappearing from the face of our planet at 1,000 times the natural rate. This means that we are losing between 10 and 130 species every day.
Today, more than 40% of all living species on Earth are at risk of extinction. If this rate of extinction continues or accelerates, the number of endangered species will be in the millions in the next decades. This is certainly a cause for reflection for every inhabitant of the planet, as the extinction of individual species inevitably leads to global environmental problems, threatening the stability of the entire Earth’s ecosystem.
The Challenge of Biodiversity Loss
The loss of biodiversity is in itself an issue of deep concern. Moreover, biodiversity underpins the functioning of ecosystems that provide a wide range of services to human society. The continued loss of biodiversity therefore has a profound impact on human well-being now and in the future. human well-being now and in the future. Biodiversity decline and change pose potential threats to a multitude of ecosystem services, including providing food, fiber, medicines and freshwater, pollination of cultivated plants, filtering of pollutants, and protection from natural disasters.
There is also deterioration in cultural services such as spiritual and religious values, knowledge and educational opportunities, and recreational and aesthetic values.
Some 170 countries have now developed national biodiversity strategies and action plans. At the international level, resources are being mobilized and progress is being made in developing mechanisms for research, monitoring and scientific assessment of biodiversity.
Many actions taken in support of biodiversity have resulted in significant measurable outcomes for certain areas and target species and ecosystems. This demonstrates that, with adequate resources and political will, mechanisms can be found to reduce biodiversity loss on a larger scale.
Signs of Continued Biodiversity Loss
There are numerous signs of continuing biodiversity loss across all three pillars – genes, species and ecosystems. The following phenomena are observed:
- Species assessed to be at risk of extinction have, on average, moved closer to the edge of extinction. Amphibians are most at risk; coral species are deteriorating most rapidly. About a quarter of plant species are estimated to be at risk of extinction;
- Between 1970 and 2006, population estimates indicate that the relative abundance of vertebrate species declined by an average of almost one-third; it is now continuing to decline globally, most acutely in tropical areas and in the case of freshwater species;
- The size and integrity of natural habitats continue to decline in most regions of the world, although significant progress has been made in some regions in slowing the rate of biodiversity loss in tropical and mangrove forests. Serious deterioration has been noted in freshwater wetlands, habitats provided by sea ice, salt marshes, coral reefs, seabed vegetation and reefs that are home to shellfish;
- Significant fragmentation and degradation of forests, rivers and other ecosystems also result in loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services;
- the genetic biodiversity of cultivated plants and livestock continues to decline in agricultural systems;
- Five major pressures directly responsible for biodiversity loss (habitat modification, overexploitation, pollution, spread of invasive alien species, and climate change);
- The ecological impacts of human activities exceed the Earth’s biological assimilative capacity.
How Is the Threat of Extinction Assessed?
- Where do the animals live – in the same area or separated geographically? If in one area, there is an increased risk that a single unfavorable factor could wipe out the entire species.
- Length of the reproductive cycle – how quickly can the population recover, are there enough pairs to reproduce?
- What dangers do members of this species face?
- How genetically diverse is this population?
- How dangerous is the natural habitat of these animals?
Thus, species with 500 individuals in their population may be considered less at risk of extinction than those with 300 animals, if the former live in the same area and have a long reproductive cycle, i.e. the population cannot grow rapidly.
For example, compare the fauna of the tropics and the inhabitants of temperate forests. There are many more species in tropical forests that are found nowhere else.
Similarly, if something were to happen to one single river, all the species that live in it could disappear at the same time, regardless of the size of their populations. In addition, other species in the ecosystem would also be adversely affected.
Animals That Are on the Verge of Extinction Due to Humans
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes the Red List of Threatened, Endangered, Threatened, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Endangered, Birds, Amphibians, and Marine Species in seven categories, ranging from Least Concern to Endangered, Threatened, Endangered, Endangered and Probably Extinct.
According to the Red List, 5,583 species are currently critically endangered. Here are some of them.
Sumatran and Bornean orangutan
Habitat loss due to excessive logging and its conversion for agriculture and road building are major issues that are critical to both orangutan species. Currently, despite the establishment of national parks, forests continue to be cut illegally. In addition, poaching of cubs for sale is a serious threat.
Over the past 75 years, the number of orangutans in Sumatra has declined by more than 80% and continues to decline inexorably. In Borneo, the population has declined by more than 50% over the past 60 years.
Iberian (Spanish) lynx
The Iberian lynx is categorized as “critically endangered”. This data comes from the Red List of Endangered Animals (compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature).
According to some reports, there are only a little over 200 Iberian lynxes left on the planet. Despite the fact that about 35 million US dollars have been allocated to save these wild cats, a group of scientists recently called their situation critical. According to Nicholas Guzman, head of the National Iberian Lynx Rescue Plan, among the just over 200 individuals in the wild, only 22 to 32 females are ready to breed. According to Guzmán, it is up to them to save the Iberian lynx. Sadly, however, the story of the Iberian lynx is just one of many black pages in the lives of our lesser brothers.
Currently, there is no accurate data on the number of whale sharks living in the wild. Some researchers report that there are only approx 1,000 individuals.
The main threat to the existence of whale sharks is undoubtedly their commercial fishing. Despite current fishing bans, shark fishing continues in Southeast Asia and India. A peculiarity of whale sharks is their very long sexual maturation and slow reproduction rate, which makes it impossible to quickly restore the population. Every year the number of whale sharks in the world is declining by 5% to 6%.
Sifakas are a genus of lemurs, members of the Indriidae family. There are several species of sifaka: Verreaux’s sifaka, Walnut sifaka, Crowned sifaka, Golden crowned sifaka, Silky’s sifaka and Perrier’s sifaka. All are restricted to the island of Madagascar.
Habitat loss due to active logging and burning of forests in the region and the ongoing hunting of lemurs are the main threats to the existence of this amazing animal.
Galapagos tortoise or elephant tortoise
It is believed that by the early 20th century, over 200,000 elephant tortoises had been wiped out. This led to the tortoises becoming completely extinct on Charles and Barrington Islands, while on others they disappeared almost completely.
In addition, natural habitats for farming were destroyed, and alien animals such as rats, pigs and goats were introduced and spread, becoming competitors for the turtles’ food.
Since the early 20th century, many efforts have been made to restore the Galapagos tortoise population. Captive-bred baby elephant tortoises were released on the islands in their natural habitat. Today, the elephant tortoise population numbers more than 19,000 individuals.
One Third of the World’s Tree Species Are Threatened With Extinction
Taking land from forests for crop and livestock production and logging are not the biggest threats to trees. Climate change is becoming the most tangible factor in the destruction of trees.
The study examined the risks to 58,497 tree species worldwide, according to a report by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI).
About 30% of the species (17,500) are at risk of extinction. For 21% of species there was not enough data to assess, just over 40% were listed as “not endangered”, but the remaining species (more than 7%) are already dying out.
Some 142 tree species were found to be extinct, while more than 440 species survived in very small numbers – less than 50 individual trees in the wild.
Brazil, home to large swathes of the Amazon rainforest, has the highest number of tree species (8,847) and the highest number of endangered trees (1,788). But the highest proportion of endangered species was found in tropical Africa, especially on islands such as Madagascar and Mauritius, where 59% and 57% of tree species, respectively, are threatened.