Ecology Research Paper on Endangered Species
Life on earth has been impacted greatly by the current wave of mass extinction of living organisms; the most common acknowledged being that of dinosaurs. Several other living organisms’ extinctions have taken place. For instance, in the last 500 years, more than 844 species, for example, the passenger pigeon, auk, and the thylacine among others have been extinct while another population of 16,000 is facing the danger of being extinct. Furthermore, approximately two thirds of turtles will have died by 2025. Great apes’ populations have waned by almost half in several parts of Africa in the recent past. They are among other plants and animals that have been categorized as endangered that could soon be lost. However, this data could only be a fraction of the exact picture of what is taking place since there is a large population of species that has not been described. According to experts, there could be a falling rate of extinction for every 20 minutes passing. Human beings have the obligation to protect all other species and the natural diversity despite the increasing needs of man that cause human wildlife conflicts. This paper provides a review of the endangered species topic. It addresses several concepts of species extinction beginning with the background information, causes, and ways of controlling it.
The earth consists of different forms of life, for instance, plants, animals, humans, and other organisms. These forms of life are extremely mutually dependent through the formation of significant systems, which frequently remodel the world’s lands, oceans, and the atmosphere (Pickerel). Increased human population growth as witnessed in the past two centuries has put numerous life-supporting structures out of balance and in a high risk. This results in jeopardizing larger plant and animal species, which the human population relies on either directly or indirectly for long-term survival. It is apparent that the booming population among human beings will translate to enhanced human activities globally. This will lead to fluctuations in the land, water bodies, and atmospheres besides the track of human history. For instance, increased human activities like deforestation in search for farming or construction land will eventually decrease the amount of forest cover and aggregate the amount chemicals released into the atmosphere, which will affect the existence of other living species.
A good number of ecological transformations as a result of human activity have been responsible for the diminished aptitude of the environment to support some forms of life, thus leading to extinction species (Rutherford and Ahlgren 46.) Therefore, it is significant to understand that human populations and activities have been acknowledged as one of the main causes of species extinction and endanger. This is because increased human population will lead to further exploitation of the earth’s habitat thereby exposing the natural thriving plant and animal species to the endangered species category. According to a report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the population of human beings is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2025. The data by NWF also affirms that plant and animal species are fading at a rate of 1,000 times faster as compared to the last 65 million years. Habitat loss as a result of human activity has been greatly associated with the extinction rates that are taking place currently. Despite the fact that the statistics are becoming more confounding, fewer efforts from human beings re put in place to address the issue of endangering species and extinction.
Many species face the risk of vanishing or becoming extinct in the future. These comprise both plants and animals among other kinds of living organisms. Despite the fact that extinction is part of the normal evolution process, the contemporary rate of extinction of species is worrying. There are no measured effects of species extinction; however, it is apparent that they play a significant role in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem as a single extinction affects the remaining species. Since it is not possible to ascertain the explicit roles played by single species within an ecosystem, it is important that all of them are conserved. Commonly, endangered species are often rare as a result of the past declines. This means that they have been affected negatively in the past, which has resulted in their current state. Environmental conservation is therefore important in ensuring that all species are protected from extinction.
Definition of Endangered Species
Species are defined as a component of biodiversity. Endangerment entails the exposure to risk. With regards to living organisms, the use of the term endangered species refers to the risk of species becoming extinct (Miller 194). The origin of endangered species concept is indistinct. Nonetheless, the concept was traced back to the late 19th century in which a number of books addressing the growing deterioration in British species were distributed (US Fish and Wildlife Service). The earliest American piece of statute regrading endangered species, the Lacey Act, was recognized in 1900. This legislation was written as a rejoinder to the mounting public anxiety over the debility of the passenger pigeon (8). Thereafter, there have been growing apprehension regarding the endangerment of species in the successive decades.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species involves an international methodology for appraising the conservation status of plant and animal species (Mace et al. 1425). It was established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN was established in 1948 while the IUCN Red List System was first enacted in 1963 (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee). The Red List entails a list of species that have been estimated against measureable criteria enacted in 1994 with an objective of categorizing the extinction peril of species (Akçakaya et al. 1001).
Currently, there are no plans to make the Red List inclusive of all species. Nevertheless, the IUCN is endeavoring to ensure that it is all-inclusive (Metrick and Martin 5). Furthermore, inadequate scientific information regarding various species is also an impeding factor in ensuring that the IUCN appraise all acknowledged species. By 2013, all recognized species of mammals, birds as well horseshoe crabs had been evaluated in addition to around 90% of amphibians and gymnosperms.
In the remaining groups, numerous species have not been evaluated. The status conferring to the Red List is enunciated under the following threat classifications as indicated in the table below:
|Unevaluated Species||Evaluated species||Evaluated species which do not meet the criteria to be listed|
|Not Evaluated (NE)||Vulnerable (VU)||Near Threatened (NT)|
|Data Deficient (DD)||Endangered (EN) or Critically Endangered (CR)||Least Concern (LC)|
The main objective of the IUCN Red List is to offer statistics and evaluations on the status, inclinations and dangers to species in order to enlighten and trigger action for biodiversity preservation. Furthermore, recognizing species at risk of extinction is an initial step of fortification of the species through conservation urgencies.
Causes of Extinction
Extinction involves a comprehensive subject, entailing both the territories and environments that species live and interrelate with one another. Despite the fact that some actions have been put in place to reduce the risk of species extinction, the entire issue cannot be resolved until a point where humans will start safeguarding the natural surroundings that habit the endangered species. Several reasons have been discussed as to why a particular species can become endangered. The factors mentioned below are the main causes of species extinction.
Loss of Habitat
The earth’s ecosystem is constantly changing, resulting in transformation and alteration of many habitats. Most of the natural alterations take place at different steady rates, which leads to a trivial effect on individual species. Nonetheless, when these alterations take place at a fast rate, the individual species are faced with a big threat of having little time to adjust and adapt to the new conditions. Consequently, the species are seriously affected, thereby making rapid habitat loss as the main cause of species endangerment and extinction (Sodhi et al. 514). The main agents of habitat loss, which greatly enhance species extinction, are human beings. Most of the land and other regions on the planet have been affected by human activity, predominantly during this previous century. For instance, the loss of microorganisms in soils that previously sustained tropical forests, the extinction of fish and several other aquatic lives in contaminated territories, and variations in global climate as a result of the discharge of greenhouse gases are all attributed to activities of man.
Many people do not recognize the danger that humans have had on explicit species. Furthermore, it is naturally difficult to detect or envisage human effects on individual species and habitats, particularly in man’s lifetime. Nonetheless, man’s activities have momentously played a significant role in species endangerment eventual extinction. For instance, despite the fact that tropical forests may seem sumptuous, it is evident that they are essentially highly vulnerable to obliteration. This is because the soils supporting their growth have been deprived of nutrients as a result of man’s activity and encroachment in the catchment areas. This also implies that it will take more than centuries to re-grow the forests destructed by human beings. Additionally, animals and plants that live in these forests are also endangered and they face extinction as a result of the adapted habitat loss.
Introduction of a Predator or Exotic Species
In natural habitats, native species entail the plants and animals that form a precise geographic area and have customarily been part of the specific natural landscape for a long period of time. This means that the species are well adapted to their local environment besides being familiarized with the existence of other natural species in the same environment. On the other hand, exotic species are intruders. They involve species that are incorporated into new habitats as a result of human activity deliberately or unintentionally. Accordingly, the new species are considered invasive by the natural species, which causes their extinction (Clavero et al. 110). In some instances, they may have no negative implications to the ecosystem. Nonetheless, the exotic species can also have a serious threat to the natural ecological balances thus resulting in harmful consequences (Gurevitch 470).
The nastiest effect of new species involves the introduced exotic species subjecting the native species to danger through preying on them for diet purposes (Thiemann 591). This greatly transforms the natural habitat besides creating a massive competition for food. This process leads to extinction of the preyed species like the case of the polar bear predation on the older bears in Canada (Stirling and Jenny 470)
Species that are overhunted or overexploited involves living organisms that face the risk of being sternly endangered or extinct as a result of the high rates of being used (Matsuda 356). For instance, the unobstructed whaling in the 20th century and the utilization of ivory are some of the examples of overexploitations that have seen the population of whale decrease. Several nations have established measures concerning the overexploitation of species in order to prevent their extinction. Most of the species face extinction as a result of trade of animal parts, predominantly in Asia. For instance, rhino horns and tiger bones, which have a strong market for customary medicines created out of these animals’ parts.
Another major cause of species endangerment and later extinction is pollution. Several toxic chemicals are being discharged into both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The toxins in the species’ habitats or environment have a direct and indirect negative effect on a species by either killing them through infectious diseases or impairing their ability to reproduce (Smith 1350). For example, the Peregrine Falcon is an endangered species, which was affected by the DDT pesticide.
Examples of Animals that have Become Extinct
Dodo is one of the extinct flightless birds that inhabited the Mauritius Island. The bird was approximately 1-meter-tall and weighed about 10-18 kg. The evidence of the species extinction is apparent because of the written account of the animal found to have existed in the 17th century. One of the reasons the bird became flightless is its consumption of abundant food that included seeds, bulbs, roots, and nuts among others. The bird is believed to be hunted to extinction by sailors and other invasive species that were introduced in the 15th century (One kind). The last sight of the bird was believed to be in 1662.
The passenger pigeon was found in North America and has been extinct since the early 20th century. By the time the Europeans entered North America, it believed that there were about 3 to 5 billion Passenger Pigeons. However, they were endangered and later extinct as a result of mass forest destruction (habitat destruction). Additionally, the 19th century also saw the pigeon meat cheaply commercialized for slaves that resulted in massive hunting of the species to extinction. The last surviving species was spotted in 1914 (One kind).
The great auk was a large and flightless bird that was found in North Atlantic and Northern Spain. It was approximately 75-85 cm and weighed 5kg. Besides being flightless, the species was also a powerful swimmer, which assisted in water hunting. Man hunted the species for more than 100,000 years because it was used as a bait for fishing and a source of food. This made it become extinct. Additionally, the species’ feathers were also used in Europe in the mid-16th century. The last group of the bird lived in 1835 in Iceland and was hunted and killed for their skins. In British Isles, the species was last killed 1844 in Scotland (One kind).
This species is known to be native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea in the ancient times. The Tasmanian Tiger was a huge flesh-eating marsupial that disappeared in the Australian mainland around 2000 years ago. The animal is thought to have been hunted to extinction and human invasion. Additionally, the introduction of dogs and diseases spread were also other reason for the species’ extinction. The last uninhabited Tasmanian Tiger was hunted down between 1910 and 1920 besides the last captured species’ death in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania in 1936.
West African Black Rhinoceros
The West African Black Rhinoceros is one of the sub categories of the Black Rhinoceros that inhabited in several nations in the southeast Africa. The species weighed 800-1,300 kgs with two horns, one measuring approximately 0.5-1.3 meters and another one between 2 and 55cm. It fed on leafy plants and shoots. The species’ horns are believed to have rich medicinal properties, which led to its heavy poaching. By 1980, extensive poaching of the species led to its extinction. The last animal was spotted in Cameroon in 2006 and affirmed officially nonexistent in 2011.
The table below shows some of the statistics of extinct species
|Species Name||Habitat||Reason for Extinction||Date Officially Declared Extinct|
|Sabre Toothed Cat||Globally||Decline of Large Herbivores
Competition from man
|Baiji White Dolphin||River Yangtze (China)||Food Supply
|Stellers Sea Cow||Near Island (Southwest of Alaska)
Commander Islands (Bering Sea)
|Source of Food||No specific|
|Woolly Mamoth||Northern Eurassia and Northern America||Human Hunting
|Pyrenean Ibex||Iberian Peninsula||Diseases
Inability to Compete for Food
Animals Facing Extinction (Beluga Whale)
The Beluga Whale was listed in 2008 as an endangered species. The triggered a protection act in 2011 by a federal judge as result of numerous environmental activist’s campaign to protect the remaining population (Mclendon n.pag). The species endangerment is a consequence of oil and gas drilling, industrial development, ship strikes, pollution and several proposed mining project threats from man and their effect on the sea ice (Comiso n.pag). Another main reason for the species’ endangerment is the use of air guns in the process of fossil fuel exploration. Air gun sounds made during this process harm the whales’ delicate hearing thus disrupting their aptitude to feed and breed. This exposes them to the danger of being extinct and hunted down (Freeman 162).
Impact of Extinction on the Planet
Wildlife extinction in the world has a great impact on our lives, which most people have not acknowledged. It will take more than 5 million years for a given speciation to reconstruct the biodiversity that has been demolished (Sustaining Biodiversity). The species have a great significance in the world and their loss affects the economic value provided by the species supply of food crops, fuelwood and lumber, paper, and medicine (Sustaining Biodiversity). Another impact of species extinction on planet is loss of the genetic data to mankind, which is used to create new crop types, food, medicines and vaccines. Moreover, the disappearance of the species also affects the recreational pleasure they offer in terms of tourism (Ganly pag.). Many people travel across the world to see the species and on movies. Extinction of species has also had negative climatic impacts, for instance, destruction of forests and other water catchment areas that have resulted in loss of rains thus causing desertification.
Resurrection biology, also referred to as de-extinction, entails a process applied in resurrecting species that have been extinct (Seddon 1). Despite the fact that the process is being considered as an imaginary notion, the likelihood of bringing back extinct species to life has encouraged several developments, particularly in selective breeding, genetics, and reproductive cloning technologies. For instance, among the major developments in the process was in the 1990s through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) that saw the production of first mammalian clone, Dolly the sheep that was born in 1996 and eventually died in 2003. In 2009, scientists applied SCNT technique and approximately attained de-extinction of the extinct Pyrenean ibex for the first time. Despite the fact a clone was produced from preserved tissues, it later succumbed as a result of austere lung defect few minutes after being born. This near success of resurrection biology ignited a global discussion about whether the species should be brought back to life and how the whole process should be managed.
Methods of Saving Species
Cleaning up Pollution
Pollution takes many forms, which affect the general ecosystem composition. The activity of man needs to be controlled to avoid the discharge of toxic substances in the environment, which affects the normal living conditions of species population. Water, air, and waste pollution have detrimental effects on species population directly and indirectly. Cleaning pollution will eventually lead to saving different living species that are facing the threat of distinction.
Protecting Wildlife Habitat
Wildlife habitat destruction was also seen to be one of the major causes of species extinction. Therefore, man needs to put in efforts that will continually protect the natural habitat of species through reduction of human activity in the natural ecosystem. For instance, man needs to control actions like deforestation, which destroy the adaptable habitat for numerous species thus exposing them to death.
Take Action Plans
To ensure that the remaining species are protected from extinction, man needs to start acting on the talk. Environmental conservation activists need to come up with global campaigns that will ensure that the species are protected from disappearance. Additionally, man needs to be educated on the negative impacts of extinction of species to ensure that people understand the significance of a balanced ecosystem
Several species have been extinct while others are endangered. The main cause of this process is attributed to man’s activity. This is as a result of the increasing human population and eventual increase of man’s needs. Nonetheless, there needs to be a balance in the ecosystem to support the life of man. Therefore, several actions should be undertaken to ensure that there is no further extinction of species, which will eventually support a favorable environment for man to grow and develop.
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