The journal Nature just published an in-depth look at the threats faced by wildlife around the globe. It seems what we thought was bad is even worse. Estimates suggest that somewhere between 500 and 36,000 species could disappear each year (or 10 to 690 a week).
While that number spans a large gap, even at the lowest end of the spectrum it’s an ugly picture. It’s further complicated by the fact that the information covers 1.7 million species — so assessing individual threats is virtually impossible.
What is made clear is that up to 26 percent of mammal species, 13 percent of bird species and 41 percent of amphibian species are listed as “threatened” with extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
And that doesn’t even take into account the creatures we haven’t yet discovered. It’s predicted that anywhere from two million to 11 million animals species exist undetected. This is likely the reason for the large gap in estimated extinctions.
Nature reports that mass extinctions, or the loss of 75 percent of existing species, have happened five times in our planet’s history. At the rate species are currently disappearing, we could potentially experience a sixth mass extinction by the year 2200.
Surprisingly, climate change isn’t the number one threat towards animals. According to the report, the average decline is a result of about 37 percent exploitation — things like hunting and fishing — 31 percent is from habitat degradation and change, and just 13 percent is from habitat loss.
Climate change accounts for just seven percent of Nature’s estimation, although it plays a role — along with human use — in habitat changes. However, as climate change gets worse, it could start to play a larger role. In the last 40 years alone, we have killed half of all wildlife — making conservation efforts difficult.
It will take more than just minor human efforts to reverse or at least slow these estimates, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.