Thursday, January 10, 2019

Anthropogenic Species Extinction is a Crime Against Nature

Year after year we are witnessing the extinction of species. To be fair species extinction has been part of life on Earth since life originated on this planet but what makes contemporary extinctions unique is the fact that they are happening 100 to 1000 times faster than the normal natural rate of die-offs. Species extinction is being accelerated by human activities including climate change. Thousands of species are currently under threat from habitat loss, deforestation, poaching and climate change. The problem will get worse as habitats continue to shrink, forests continue to be destroyed and the climate continues to warm. Many of the species that are disappearing have yet to be identified by scientists.

According to a 2017 paper in Nature Climate Change a review of 136 studies published between 1990 and 2015 concluded that 47 percent of the land mammals and 23 percent of the birds on the threatened list are affected negatively by climate change. Primates and marsupials were found to be the most at risk because of climate change.

"Our results suggest that populations of large numbers of threatened species are likely to be already affected by climate change, and that conservation managers, planners and policy makers must take this into account in efforts to safeguard the future of biodiversity," the paper said.

In 2016 we saw the end of a number of species due to climate change this includes the Bramble Cay melomy that has succumbed to sea level rise. Other animals that were declared extinct in 2016 include the Nullarbor Dwarf Bettong, the Capricorn Rabbit-Rat, the Pinta Island Tortoise, the Western Black Rhinoceros, the White rhino, Rabb’s Fringe-Limbed Treefrog, the Formosan Clouded Leopard, the San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher, There were also 13 other bird species that went extinct in 2016. These are but a few examples of animals that went extinct in 2016.

In 2017 multiple lizard species and a bat. The Javan Rhino was officially declared extinct in 2017 and four other animals from Malaysia, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Malayan Tiger, Sunda Pangolin and Gaur (Indian Bison) were placed on the critical species list. In Malaysia a total of 12 other species were determined to be endangered, 14 species were listed as vulnerable, and 33 species were considered near threatened.

A number of bird species were officially declared extinct in 2018. Hawaii's insect-eating forest-bird, the po'ouli, is now extinct, along with two Brazilian songbirds: the Cryptic Treehunter and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner. The blue parrot, the Spix’s Macaw are also considered to be extinct in the wild.  The once abundant Eastern Cougars (puma, mountain lion, and catamount) were also officially declared extinct in 2018 although they have not been seen in any numbers since the 30s.

Many other species were declared to be on the brink of extinction in 2018. The vaquita, discovered in the late 50s the dolphin-like porpoise that lives in the Sea of Cortez is the smallest marine mammal on Earth. There are less than 30 wild vaquita left are they are expected to be declared extinct this year. Other animals that are expected to go extinct this year are the northern white rhino — a subspecies of the white rhinos.

Insect populations have been adversely impacted by climate change and they are going extinct at a rapid pace all around the world. In some places we have witnessed the disappearance of three quarters of insect life.

"Over the past twenty years, I have observed rapid declines and local extinctions of insects in the Andes-Amazon region," said Larson. "Many species are moving up mountains where temperatures are cooler, but eventually there is nowhere left for them to go."

Insects that succumb to extinction often go unnoticed, but as the foundation of the planet's food chain their disappearance can have calamitous implications.

"Insects power the world in a real way — they make the world work," said Sea McKeon, a biology professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland. "We're dropping those numbers radically...That should scare people."

Other alarming trends that have attracted public attention include a radical reduction in giraffe populations due to geographic isolation of remaining populations and trophy hunting. Giraffe populations have declined by 40 percent in the last three decades.

According to the NRDC, Americans import tens of thousands of Giraffe products and trophies. In a bid to try to save the species from extinction the NRDC and others have petitioned on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list giraffes as endangered under the ESA. They are also suing the Trump administration. The NRDC has successfully defended vulnerable wildlife like humpback whales and rusty patched bumble bees.

The Trump administration has demonstrated that they have no interest in protecting wildlife. Their policies are detrimental to animal welfare. They have created a "conservation council" run by trophy hunters who want to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act.

At the end of last year when Republicans still controlled the House of Representatives they passed legislation (H.R. 6784) that would remove protections from gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Republicans refused to heed the warnings from scientists and conservationists who say the the gray wolf's reintroduction has contributed to an interconnected, holistic ecosystem. Research bears out their claims that healthy biodiversity requires apex predators like wolves.

"It’s shameful that anti-wildlife politicians in House Republican leadership are using the remaining time in this Congress to attack the Endangered Species Act — the law that saved our national symbol, the bald eagle — and to push legislation to allow gray wolves across our country to be killed." Marjorie Mulhall, Legislative Director for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans at Earthjustice said. "Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves are recovering from the centuries of trapping, hunting, and poisoning that brought them to the brink of extinction in the continental U.S. But these icons of the wild are still missing from much of their still-suitable habitat, and have been subjected to hostile killing practices in places such as Wyoming where they have already lost their Endangered Species Act status. Gray wolves continue to need federal protections."

Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico is a threat to both flora and fauna including 110 endangered species. In the summer of 2018 thousands of scientists endorsed a study that concluded the wall would be devastating to local animal species.

Although there have been conservation success stories in 2018 the ruling government in the US has been a major impediment. The border wall and legislative efforts like H.R. 6784 have led conservationists to say that Trump and the GOP have a "pro-extinction agenda". 

Related
Trump's Border Walls are a Threat to both Flora and Fauna
Combating Climate Change to Slow Species Extinction
People Powered Mass Extinction
Reflections on Rhino Horn Economics and the Natural Capital Movement on World Rhino Day
Half of All Wildlife on Earth is Going Extinct
Time to Tell the Truth About Climate Change
Collapsing Fisheries and the Importance of Fishing
The Mass Extinction of our Oceans May Have Already Begun
The State of Our Oceans: We are Headed Towards a Marine Mass Extinction
Global Tiger Day: Tigers are on the Brink of Extinction
Wildlife Success Stories in 2014 and 2015
The Financial Costs of Biodiversity Loss
List of Canadian Animals and Plants that are Extinct or at Risk
Endangered Species

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