MAY 19, 2017 02:58 PM PDT

How You Should Feel about Endangered Species Day

Many scientists call our current geologic epoch the Anthropocene, which refers to the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Within the Anthropocene, many argue that we are presently undergoing the sixth mass extinction, in which we're losing dozens of species every day.

So, what does it matter if we lose a few (or many species)? Yeah, it’s a shame that your grandchildren might not ever have the chance to see an elephant, but that’s not the reason why preserving species is so imperative. Every species on this planet serves a critical role within some ecosystem and because of that uniqueness, the loss of any singular species has the potential to unravel entire biomes. And the news ain’t looking good right now.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, which documents flora and fauna species threatened with extinction, the list of endangered species has more than doubled in the past two decades. The IUCN lists more than 23,000 plant and animal species on the red list, including corals, birds, mammals and amphibians. Of course, that number is actually much larger, but surveying potential threats to every species, known and unknown, is impossible. But the scientists behind the list acknowledge that the number only represents a fraction of the likely number of threatened species, as researchers do not have the bandwidth to assess all the potential threats. In the US, almost 1,500 species are listed as endangered or threatened by the Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS).

To be considered endangered by the IUCN, several criteria are analyzed, including a shrinking population, issues that prevent reproduction and vulnerability of the species' habitat. In the United States, we have a specific law, called the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which classifies threatened species. Species are typically identified through petition or the assessment of the FWS. Over the years since this law was enacted in 1973, the ESA has been 99% successful at preventing extinction. Yet there is worry that the current federal administration is planning on eliminating the act, which would leave vulnerable species with fewer protections.

More than half the population of Eastern lowland gorillas has been lost since the 1990s, leaving just a few thousand left in the wild. Photo: www.keyword-suggestions.com

So, what can you do to help? Endangered Species Day isn’t about making you feel grim and too hopeless to do anything, it’s about inciting you to spur change! Whether it’s educating yourself, your children, or your neighbors about habitat destruction and conservation efforts, celebrating the positive cases, or calling your state representatives and senators to demand protection for species, you CAN make a difference!

Sources: Center for Biological Diversity, Time, FWS

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
SEP 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
SEP 20, 2019
How Conservationists Are Helping Endangered African Penguins
Residing at the coastlines of Southern Africa are a temperate penguin species dubbed the African penguin, and the International Union for Conservation of N...
SEP 20, 2019
Technology
SEP 20, 2019
Can Robots Land Like Birds?
Below the gaze of high-speed cameras, a tiny bird named Gary is awaiting the signal to fly over to a perch covered in Teflon. The successful land of Gary o...
SEP 20, 2019
Cancer
SEP 20, 2019
Treating dogs with human breast cancer drugs
Did you know that dogs get lung cancer? New research published recently in the journal Clinical Cancer Research shows how dogs with cancer are benefiting f...
SEP 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2019
Invasive Tumbleweed Demonstrates the Advantage of Extra Chromosomes
The massive tumbleweed Salsola ryanii was once thought to be going extinct, but it's growing stronger....
SEP 20, 2019
Earth & The Environment
SEP 20, 2019
Will Banana Crops Survive a Changing Climate?
Climate change impacts, most notably rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, are impacting agricultural production around the world. It&rs...
SEP 20, 2019
Earth & The Environment
SEP 20, 2019
Massive Phytoplankton Bloom Resulted from Kilauea's Eruption
The 2018 eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano didn’t just change the lives of several hundred residents and the local landscape. It also had sh...
Loading Comments...