Help Conserve the World's Last Wilderness and Stop Extinction
The World’s Diversity of Species is Rapidly Disappearing
Tiger populations are hanging on by a thread. Hundreds of great apes are killed every year by poachers. Every sea turtle species is endangered or threatened by extinction. Developing countries harbor most of the world’s species as well as its endangered rain forests and coral reefs but lack the financial resources to protect them. Scientists estimate that one-half to two-thirds of the world’s species could be driven to the brink of extinction by the end of this century.
The Sixth Mass Extinction is Underway
Extinction is a natural process. According to the fossil record, the background rate of species loss averages less than 1 species extinction per year. Mass extinction events have occurred five times during the earth’s geologic history, mostly as a result of catastrophic changes including meteors striking Earth, and periods of intense volcanic activity. The sixth mass extinction is currently underway, this time driven by human activity. Land-use changes from agriculture, urban development, and logging have resulted in severe habitat loss and degradation around the world. As a result, the rate of extinction today is 100-1000 times higher than the natural background rate observed in the fossil record.
What Species are Threatened by Extinction?
Currently, 21 percent of mammals, 12 percent of birds, 30 percent of amphibians, 32 percent of fishes, 27 percent of insects, 27 percent of corals, and 73 percent of all flowering plants are currently threatened by extinction. In total, 36 percent of all species on earth are at risk of extinction today. Habitat destruction or loss is the main cause of most species extinctions. The amount of natural habitat conserved during the next few decades will determine how many species survive.
Why Should You Care About Biodiversity and Ecosystems?
Biodiversity, or the number and abundance of species, matters to us all. High biodiversity is nature’s insurance against population collapse from disease, resource scarcity and other disturbances such as wildfires and floods. The earth’s natural systems like oceans, rainforests, grasslands, and freshwater ecosystems also provide services vital to human health and welfare, include purifying the air, recharging fresh water supplies, providing arable land for human cultivation, and producing food and fibers, and other products such as pharmaceuticals. The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is expected to produce 38 percent of all global pharmaceuticals by 2011, providing a major engine of growth for the U.S. economy. One-quarter of all pharmaceutical drugs are derived from natural sources including plant and animal species.