5 ways humans are accelerating the rate of animal extinctions

Within the next decade, one million of the world’s animal species may vanish from the face of the planet, according to a recent U.N report on biodiversity. Sandra Díaz, one of the co-chairs of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services remarked:

“The evidence is crystal clear: Nature is in trouble. Therefore we are in trouble.”

Sadly, human activities are accelerating the rate of animal extinctions, according to a report from Science News, and five things in particular are leading to an increase in the number of species that may soon be gone from planet Earth:


1. Habitat Loss

75 percent of the land on Earth has been “severely altered” by habitat loss. Urban areas have grown by more than 100 percent since 1992, and that rate is likely to increase in the years ahead. And agriculture has begin to crowd out forests, wetlands, and grasslands where animals live and graze.

The U.N. report warns that 85 percent of wetlands that were present in 1700 were lost by 2000, and that forests now cover just 68 percent of the area they covered in preindustrial times.

2. Overfishing of the Oceans

Nearly 66 percent of the ocean surface has been altered in some way by human actions such as shipping, the offshore drilling of oil, and other activities.

But the biggest threat to ocean life is overfishing and the greed of industrial fishing, which have greatly impacted the stocks of Atlantic halibut, bluefin tuna, and even sharks.

3. Climate Change

A hotter planet is a threat to animals on both the land and in the oceans. And that reality came into focus last year, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the planet’s average temperature has already increased by nearly 1 degree since preindustrial times.

That increase, the IPCC added, is contributing to extinctions, reduced crop yields, and more frequent, destructive wildfires.

4. Pollution

Some of the worst pollution can be found in our oceans, especially marine plastic pollution, which has increased tenfold just since 1980.

Plastics can also find their way into soil, along with both urban rural waste, which are a threat to agriculture across the world.

5. Invasive Species

Yes, humans also introduce new species into the environment which have an incredibly negative impact on existing species.

One such species that has wreaked havoc is the emerald ash borer, and insect that threatens majestic ash trees across the world, according to The Arbor Day Foundation:

“Originally from Asia, the emerald ash borer (EAB) was first discovered in the Detroit area in 2002. It is believed to have entered the country on wooden packing materials from China. The bright metallic-green beetle may be smaller than a dime, but it is capable of taking down ash trees thousands of times its size.”

There is hope…

The U.N report isn’t all gloom and doom. Conservation efforts undertaken from from 1996 to 2008 have reduced the rate of extinction for mammals and birds by 29 percent so far.  But the report also says that saving more species is going to demand “transformative changes.” Those changes include energy consumption, a better use of food and water, and how we choose to preserve the planet we all live on.

Featured Image Via Jo Oh/Wikipedia

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Andrew Bradford

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