Our planet is experiencing massive losses in biodiversity due to several factors, including climate change, diseases, pollution, invasive species, and habitat loss due to agriculture and industrialization. Around the globe, an estimated 25 percent of plant and animal species are considered vulnerable, meaning that over one million species could face extinction within decades.
This year, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has declared 23 species extinct. This marks the largest group of animals and plants to be formally deemed extinct at once under United States’ main wildlife protection law, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), since it was passed in 1973. Previously, only 11 species have been classified as extinct.
The 23 species include 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two types of fish, a fruit bat, and a flowering plant from the mint family. Eleven of these species were native to the Pacific Islands and Hawaii, and fell victim to the risks posed by their very limited geographical distribution.
As this list suggests, birds are currently among the most endangered species. According to FWS, avian populations as a whole diminished by over three billion birds since 1970, mostly due to anthropogenic environmental changes.
Some species have probably been extinct for quite some time, even if they have just reached this list now. For instance, the ivory-billed woodpecker, America’s largest woodpecker known to bird watchers as the “Lord God Bird,” had last been seen in 1944 in northeastern Louisiana. Since then, deforestation in the U.S. South has destroyed its habitat, leading it to extinction. Similarly, Bachman’s warbler, one of America’s rarest songbirds has last been spotted in the wild in the United States in 1962.
If actions to mitigate climate change and environmental destruction due to human expansion are not taken immediately, this list will grow significantly in the coming years, marking severe biodiversity losses.
“With climate change and natural area loss pushing more and more species to the brink, now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America’s wildlife,” urged U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
A list and description of the 23 species can be found here.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer