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How Fast Are Animals Going Extinct?
Earth is considered to be in the midst of its sixth mass extinction, but this time is different. Unlike past mass extinctions caused by natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, natural climate shifts, and asteroid strikes, this one is caused almost entirely by humans. Ninety-nine percent of currently threatened species are at risk due to human activities. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it usually occurs at a rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists believe that the planet is now losing up to 1,000 times the natural rate, with dozens of species going extinct every single day.
Why Is Biological Diversity Important?
Biodiversity maintains the stability of the planet. The complex web of flora and fauna provides raw materials used for consumption and production. It supplies Earth with oxygen, clean air and water, pollination, pest control, and wastewater management. The “services” provided by biodiversity fit into four broad categories: provisioning services (production of food, fiber, and water), regulating services (control of climate and diseases), supporting services (nutrient cycling and pollination), and cultural services (spiritual and recreational platforms).
How Many Species Are Protected by the Endangered Species Act?
Since the law’s creation in 1973, more than 1,600 species have been protected. It has been incredibly effective, helping 99% of species protected by the law to avoid extinction. This is done through comprehensive plans including habitat protection and rehabilitation, prohibition of practices like hunting and selling, breeding and care at specialized facilities, and community education. However, as of Aug. 12, 2019, the ESA has been threatened with some drastic changes that will put many species at risk, such as giraffes, monarch butterflies, and polar bears.