According to scientists, human actions that despoil the environment, harm wildlife, and accelerate global warming are to blame for the extinction problem. Scientists are encouraging the nations of the globe to ensure the success of a new global agreement to protect nature that was agreed upon on December 19. The agreement has the ability to help.
Genes, habits, activities, and interactions with other plants and animals that may have taken thousands, millions, or even billions of years to evolve are lost along with an animal species when it goes extinct.
Any function that species serves within an ecosystem, such as pollinating particular plants, aerating the soil, fertilising forests, or managing the populations of other animals, is also lost. The loss of the animals can alter the landscape if their role is essential to the ecosystem’s health.
If too many species are lost, the consequences could be disastrous and bring down the entire system.
In the past 500 years, hundreds of rare animals have disappeared from the planet, including the flightless Dodo bird that was wiped off on the island of Mauritius in the late 1600s.
Humans were to blame in many cases, first by fishing or hunting, as was the case with the Quagga zebra subspecies of South Africa, which was hunted to extinction in the late 19th century, and more recently through activities that contaminated, disrupted, or took over wild ecosystems.
A species could be deemed “functionally extinct” before it actually becomes extinct because there aren’t enough of its kind left to guarantee its survival. More recent extinctions have given humans the opportunity to interact with the “endlings,” or very last members of some species. When they die, those evolutionary lines are terminated, as was the case in these well-known instances:
The last known member of the Rabb’s Fringe-Limbed tree frog species was named “Toughie.” His species has all but disappeared from the wild in Panama due to the chytrid fungus. He was screaming out in vain for an unattainable partner in his enclosure at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. 2016 saw his passing.
The story of “Martha,” a passenger pigeon, serves as a cautionary tale for conservation. Although there were millions of passenger pigeons present in the 1850s, they were eventually hunted to extinction because conservation measures were implemented only after the species had already passed the point of no return. The final one, Martha, passed away in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.
“Science is democratizing the information for every country to know what it needs to do where,” said Ehrlich of the Wilson Foundation, which works to identify the best places in the world for protecting biodiversity and prioritizing nature. Before he died last year, Edward O. Wilson advocated putting half the planet under conservation and estimated that would save 85% of the world’s species.
“We humbly need to do the best that we can to protect them now,” Ehrlich said. “We understand more about the intricate web of life that sustains nature – and us, as a part of nature.”