By definition, an endangered species is a species of animal or plant that is at serious risk of extinction. There are two main things that can lead to a species becoming extinct: loss of habitat and loss of genetic variation. While a loss of habitat can happen naturally, it was revealed that a rate of 100 to 1,000 species are lost per million per year, mostly due to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change. So why aren’t we doing more for this?
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) released a red list, as of date, there are currently 105,700 species on it, with 28,000 of them being faced with extinction. Many of these species are not dying due to natural causes but by human actions. Humans are polluting the air and destroying their habitats, harming them for no reason other than human gain. However without these species, we do not have all the materials needed for food, clothing, energy, and medicine.
Endangered species also help maintain a healthy ecosystem. Thanks to bees we can enjoy a many different types of foods from apples and pears to coffee and vanilla. And if you are wearing cotton, that’s because the cotton plant your threads came from was pollinated. However, as of 2018, there are 8 species of bees on the endangered species list. This is caused by a loss of habitat, food resources, and exposure to pesticides and climate change. If we continue to let more species become extinct, many species that rely on these bees for food and/or shelter will also become endangered.
Many can also tell us whether the environment is unhealthy, these are known as indicator species. An example of an indicator species would be frogs and/or toads. The skin of adults is moist and penetrable, allowing numerous pollutants entry into their bodies. The tadpoles live in water and when tested can indicate water quality issues. In 2013 it was discovered that in just the last two decades there have been an alarming number of extinctions, nearly 168 species are believed to have gone extinct, and at least 2,469 more have populations that are declining. This is just in the United States. On a world-wide scale, as of 2019, the extinction rate is 27–167 times what is supposed to be the normal extinction rate for amphibians.
Every species plays a key role in their environment. Sea grass beds grazed by green sea turtles are more productive than those that aren’t. Hawksbill turtles eat sponges, preventing them from out-competing slow-growing corals. Both of these grazing activities help to maintain species diversity and the natural balance of the fragile marine ecosystems. If sea turtles do go extinct, it will cause declines in all of the other species whose survival depends on these healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs. This also means that, if we lose sea turtles, many marine species that humans rely on for food would also be lost.
There are many ways to help save these species. You can recycle and buy sustainable products. You should always be mindful of your water consumption, as just because we have access to clean water does not mean that every species has access to it. Avoiding plastic containers is also critical, because plastic products usually end up in the ocean where wild animals get tangled in them and/or they end up being digested by small fish. You also shouldn’t rely on the scientific community alone to defend the natural world. You should sign petitions, write letters to community leaders, and donating (whether that means your time or money is up to you). Also, if you hunt, you should keep your licenses up to date and stay in touch with your local WFG so that you know which populations of game need to be downsized and which need to be increased. Hunting is something that, if instituted properly, is a sustainable way of maintaining wild populations like deer and turkey.
As I have explained in this speech, endangered species help their ecosystem and environment in many different ways. If we lose one, it is sure that most if not all other species in their ecosystem will follow. So, when I talk about the bees, frogs, and the sea turtles, it’s not just that we should save these endangered creatures for their own good, but it’s also for ours. The government bodies that protect all wild species from extinction are both being defunded and reorganized. It is up to us, the ordinary citizens and environmental groups, to save all these important links on the food chain.