Biodiversity loss is arguably one of the biggest environmental threats in the world today, which has detrimental effects on humanity. Wildlife species provide a wealth of services to us, ranging from the oxygen that we breathe to pollinating food crops, providing food security all around the globe. All parts of the world have suffered significant losses in biodiversity, including the UK, which has reportedly lost half of its wildlife and plant species since the Industrial Revolution. While the UN Convention of Biological Diversity has established 20 Aichi biodiversity targets to address and mitigate global biodiversity loss, and the US’ 1973 Endangered Species Act has helped enhance protection efforts for species at risk, much of the world’s animal and plant species remains under threat and endangered. Here are some stunning endangered species facts to know about and inspire you into action. 

8 Endangered Species Facts

1 Million Animal and Plant Species are Currently Under Threat of Extinction

And many of which will likely be lost within decades, if not the next 20 years. The UN states that the world is currently experiencing a record-high number of species under threat, where more than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened.

Animal Species Extinction Rates are Accelerating 

Many scientists would argue that the world is currently in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event, which refers to the loss of about three quarters of all species across the planet over a short period of time. One of the most worrying endangered species facts is that more than 500 species of land animals are on the brink of extinction, according to a recent study. This amount of extinction would have taken thousands of years, were it not for humanity’s profound destruction of nature and reckless actions. In the report, researchers have also identified 515 species with populations below 1,000 and about half of these had fewer than 250 individuals remaining. 

Habitat Loss is the Biggest Driver of Species Endangerment 

Land development has skyrocketed in the past few decades to accommodate the rapidly growing human population. But persistent human activity including deforestation and land conversion for agriculture and urban development have severely impacted wildlife species. From competition and access to food, to shrinking safe space to breed, to human pollution such as pesticides, numerous species have struggled to survive under these circumstances, causing the loss of thousands of species.  

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The World is Overfishing at Unsustainable Levels 

One of the most distressing endangered species facts is that overfishing is a critical threat to marine ecosystems and all life that lives in it, not to mention the people whose livelihoods depend on it. According to the UN, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels in 2015. Between 1961 and 2016, the average annual increase in global food fish consumption (3.2%) outpaced population growth (1.6%). As a result of global fishing demand, marine species have experienced a 39% drop over the last four decades, while unsustainable and often unregulated fishing practices resulted in about 38.5 million tonnes of bycatch, where unwanted sea animals are captured during the fishing for a particular species which are then discarded, every year. 

Trophy Hunting and Wildlife Poaching Pushed Nearly 30,000 Species to Extinction

Every year, millions of animals from thousands of species across the world are captured and killed as part of the wildlife trading industry, which can be both legal and illegal depending on the country. Many wildlife creatures such as tigers, rhinos and elephants are harvested for food, trophies, status symbols, tourist ornaments and allegedly medicinal purposes, causing population numbers to drop to staggering low levels. However, thanks to collective conservation efforts, wildlife poaching has been declining where some species have been able to recover to less worrying population numbers. Unfortunately for species like the passenger pigeon, Tasmanian tiger and steller’s sea cow, they have been poached to extinction.

30% of the World’s Tree Species Faces Extinction in the Wild

Much like other wildlife land and marine animals, trees across the planet have been severely impacted by human activity like agriculture, logging and livestock farming. According to the State of World’s Trees report published in September 2021, at least a third of the world’s tree species in the wild, amounting to 17,500 species, are at risk of extinction, including well-known species such as magnolias, oaks, maple and ebonies.  Over 440 tree species are on the brink of extinction, with each species having fewer than 50 left in the wild.

A Species’ Extinction Creates a Domino Effect

Ecosystems are a complex network made up of different animals, plants and other organisms working together and are mutually depend on each other. The extinction or disappearance of a single species can have monumental effects across the entire food chain and ecosystem. Scientists say that ‘extinction breeds extinction’, where close ecological interactions of species on the brink tend to move other species towards extinction, creating the domino effect. Based on analysis on 12,200 plants and animals currently listed as threatened or endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), at least 200 of these  species have already been lost through co-extinction and another 6,300 should be classified as “co-endangered.”

Climate Change is Exacerbating All Existing Threats to Biodiversity

Global warming caused by the world’s excess carbon pollution is pushing the climate to change faster than species can move or adapt. Rising temperatures are driving animals towards habitats they are not suited for, which impacts their hunting and feeding habits, while plant species and other organisms will struggle to grow and survive in these increasingly more challenging conditions. A 2004 study even estimated that millions of species worldwide could face extinction as a result of climate changes predicted to occur in the next 50 years. 

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Featured image by: Wikimedia Commons