Monday, October 6, 2008

NEW REPORT: 38 Percent of World's Species Threatened with Extinction: What Can You Do?

According to the newest report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that documented 44,838 species of animals and marine life, 16,928 are now currently threatened with extinction (38 percent). This includes an assessment of world’s mammals, showing 20 percent known to be threatened with extinction. Additionally, the report says that 1 in 7 birds (14 percent) are threatened or extinct.



Like canaries in the coal mine, any extinction of species or threatening of extinction sounds a major warning bell to us that viability of human life and our quality of life is decreasing. With so many species on the brink of disaster, you may ask why? The IUCN says that these species are on the decline because of --

  • Climate Change: There is growing evidence that climate change will become one of the major drivers of species extinctions in the 21st Century. One study suggests that 15-37% of terrestrial species may be ‘committed to extinction’ by 2050 due to climate change. -- IUCN report "Species Susceptibility to Climate Change Impacts" Here's a short travelogue slide show from David Elliott Cohen on cnn.com about the effects of climate change.

  • Loss of Habitat: Deforestation and land development continue to encroach on habitats. According to the BBC's analysis of the IUCN report -- "About 40% of mammal species are compromised because human expansion is putting a squeeze on their habitat. "

  • Loss of Fresh, Clean Water: Wetlands are being destroyed, drained, or developed at a rapid rate. One example -- over the last 50-100 years, 60 percent of Europe's wetlands have been lost. Freshwater scarcity is also draining many ecosystems of water -- from lakes, from streams, from wetlands. Dam construction also is often a resulting solution that has both pluses and minuses for ecosystems. Pollution also plays a part in the health of fresh water.

  • Ocean Troubles: According to the IUCN, "The oceans drive weather, shape planetary chemistry, generate 70 percent of atmospheric oxygen, absorb most of the planet’s carbon dioxide, and are the ultimate reservoir for replenishment of fresh water to land through cloud formation. Trouble for the oceans means trouble for humankind. The preservation and protection of our ocean resources, not only for the marine species they contain, but also for the food, products, and ecosystem services that they provide for billions of people around the globe needs to become an urgent priority."

But there is hope. According to the IUCN -- "The [report's] results also show conservation can bring species back from the brink of extinction." Here is what you can do:

  • Write Your Government Officials: Let them know that you are concerned about the above issues and that you would like to see more conservation efforts.

  • Ask For Water Conservation: No more over development. Put a focus on redevelopment and restoration. Have your government focus on restoring wetlands, protecting fresh water, protecting underground aquifers, and water conservation. If this means that those protections put a squeeze on development and water usage, then this is not bad. It just means the environment can be protected, your safety and health can be protected, and the land will only be supporting what it is meant to support. Humans will adapt.

  • Ask For Reforestation and Habitat Conservation and Restoration: Plant more native trees. Look to your zoos, your botanical gardens, and your environmental groups for ideas of what you can support in restoring local and regional habitats.

  • Only Buy Sustainable Seafood: Although climate change is a major blow to marine life, what seafood you buy can make or break their future. Always shop using a seafood shopping guide, like the Seafood Watch pocket guide. If you can't afford the best choices, forgo seafood altogether.

  • Support Foods and Products that do Not Deforest: Learn what foods and products do not deforest. The Rainforest Alliance is a good resource. Also, purchasing recycled paper products are another good choice, as well as wood and paper products that have a recognizable certifications on it like the Forest Stewardship Council.

  • Reduce Your Energy Usage / Choose Alternative Energy: Reducing how much energy you are using and also choosing cleaner and more sustainable energy choices are key. Both of these choices will reduce your personal impact on global warming by reducing the excess of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.

More about the IUCN Red List Report can be found here.

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