The Ongoing Mass Extinction of Animal Species

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Another report warns of an ongoing mass extinction happening at rates hundreds or thousands of times faster than the any in the past tens of millions of years. Donald Trump's response has been to gut the Endangered Species Act

Many wildlife populations face likely extinction. A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 515 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles are down to fewer than 1,000 individuals each.

The authors of the study issue a warning that their results “reemphasize the extreme urgency of taking massive global actions to save humanity’s crucial life-support systems.” That is an unusual statement to include in a study. There is a reason for the inclusion of the statement. The authors of the study believe that an “ongoing sixth mass extinction” is presently occurring.

Already thousands of populations of critically endangered vertebrate animal species have been lost within the last century. And more extinctions are almost certain to follow. The authors of the study point out that as species decline, the species they interacted with are also likely to decline. “In the regions where disappearing species are concentrated, regional biodiversity collapses are likely occurring,” the authors write.

The present ongoing mass extinction is occurring much faster than past mass extinctions. Or as the authors state, “Today, species extinction rates are hundreds or thousands of times faster than the normal or background rates prevailing in the last tens of millions of years.”

UN report last year found one million species on the brink of extinction

The results of the study back up the findings of a UN report released last year. The report found that around one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, and many may become extinct within decades. As the report stated: 

“Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.”

Native species in most major land-based habitats have declined by at least 20 percent, and most of that occurred since 1900, the report also found. Over 40 percent of amphibian species, nearly 33 percent of reef-forming corals, and over a third of all marine mammals are threatened. An estimated 10 percent of insects are threatened.

The report cites climate change as one of the main reasons why so many species are on the brink of extinction. Since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions doubled and global temperatures rose by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius.

Ending the extinction crisis requires leadership from the U.S.

The extinction crisis requires leadership, including from the U.S. A report by the Center for Biological Diversity released in January listed what the U.S. government can do, including show leadership by declaring the extinction crisis is a national emergency and invest $100 billion to help halt it. Starting a campaign to protect wildlife habitat so that 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters are fully conserved and protected by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050 is another suggestion. Other suggestions include restoring the full power of the Endangered Species Act and cracking down on air and water pollution.

None of that will occur with Donald Trump in office. Action after action taken by his administration proves that nothing in nature is off-limits for exploitation. The best way to protect wildlife is to vote him out in November. 

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