MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: What animal is likely to become extinct next?

Date: Wed Feb 2 11:38:17 2000
Posted By: Jack Paxton, Faculty Crop Science Emeritus, University of Illinois
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 949370016.Zo


While it is extremely hard to determine which species will become extinct 
next, it is well known that many species become extinct each day from man's 
destruction of their habitat. San Diego county, where I live, is a hot spot 
in the world for threatened and endangered species because of rampant 
development here which destroys habit daily. 
Another point is that important species are not just "charismatic 
megafauna" - big cuddly animals. Many organisms important to proper 
functioning of our ecosystem are so small you would have trouble even 
seeing them.
It may help you to read a note I wrote:

Why do people say they LOVE our area? Is it our climate with its quiet, 
clean air? Rolling topography with its rich diversity of plants and animals 
and beautiful views? 

Most developers scrape the land bare and level it. This destroys habitat, 
views and with it plants and animals that have lived here as species far 
longer than humans. 

Habitat is all components of an area needed for something to live there. We 
need a reasonable goal for what we want our area [habitat] to be in the 
future. I propose Aldo Leopold's statement as a starting point "A thing is 
right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the 
biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." 

Although we are not endangered, many endangered species call this area home 
Congress recognized the importance to us of threatened and endangered 
species in 1973 when they enacted our Threatened and Endangered Species 

Since the 1600s the rate of extinction has accelerated rapidly because of 
human population growth and resource consumption. Today, most of the 
world’s habitats are changing faster than most species can adapt to such 
changes. The current global extinction rate is estimated at about 20,000 
species per year. 

The survival of ecosystems (plant and animal communities and their physical 
surroundings) such as brush or wetlands depends on their biodiversity, or 
variety of plants, animals, and habitats, as well as the many interactions 
among these species. The removal or disappearance of one or several species 
may irreversibly damage the ecosystem and lead to its decline. 

The irreversible loss of biodiversity has a serious impact on the ability 
of remaining species, including humans, to survive. Humans depend on 
species diversity and healthy ecosystems to provide food, clean air and 
water, and fertile soil. In addition, we benefit greatly from the many 
medicines and other products that biodiversity provides. As many as 40 
percent of our modern pharmaceutical medicines are derived from plants or 

A recent article in the North County Times "A fertile source for lifesaving 
drugs" describes one important resource, North County's wetlands. Dr 
William Fenical, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biotechnology 
and Biomedicine is discovering microbes that have medicinal qualities in 
these fast-disappearing wetlands [we have less than 10% of the original 
wetlands left in San Diego County].

As species evolve, most adapt to a specific habitat or environment that 
best meets their survival needs. Without this habitat the species may not 
survive. Pollution, drainage of wetlands, conversion of shrub lands, 
urbanization, and road and dam construction have destroyed or seriously 
damaged and fragmented available habitats. Habitat fragmentation, the 
isolation and division of habitats into smaller areas, has caused plant and 
animal species in the remaining islands of habitat to lose contact with 
other populations of their own kind. This reduces their genetic diversity 
and makes them less adaptable to environmental or climatic change. These 
small populations are highly vulnerable to extinction. 

Kelleen Flaherty, Biology expert says:
Extinction is a critically important topic in biology that needs far more 
attention than it is getting. No one knows precisely how many species are 
going extinct. The fact that no one knows makes the whole idea of 
extinction even scarier. As a result of the activity of human beings 
(pollution and destruction of the environment), lots of species are going 
extinct before we even get a chance to identify them!

Aldo Leopold said "If the biota in the course of aeons has built something 
we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly 
useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of 
intelligent tinkering".Wallace Stegner said "We are the most dangerous 
species of life on the planet, and every other species, even the earth 
itself, has cause to fear our power to exterminate. But we are also the 
only species which, when it chooses to do so, will go to great effort to 
save what it might destroy." 

Habitat destruction has made San Diego County a hot spot in the world for 
threatened and endangered species. In 1998 San Diego City approved a 
Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan that was hailed as an important 
step in preserving ALL species, especially those threatened with extinction 
by man The last California Grizzly in San Diego County was shot in 1909 and 
the last one in California killed in the 1920's!

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