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Endangered Species

Endangered Species

Author: Jensen Morgan

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Source: Earth PD Baiji CC Golden Toad PD Fungi CC Polar Bear CC

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Hi, I'm Jensen Morgan. We're going to talk about some great concepts in environmental science. Today's topic is endangered species, so let's get started.

We're going to talk about extinction, US policy on endangered species, and challenges to protecting endangered species. If you remember, throughout history, there have been five major extinctions. And we are currently living during what is considered by some scientists to be the sixth major extinction, also termed the Holocene extinction.

Species extinction is a natural ecological process. However, it is currently happening at a rate much higher than the historical average due to human activities. The most detrimental one being habitat loss from human activities, followed by pollution, invasive species, and taking of species from the environment.

Important to note are keystone species. Keystone species are those that have impacted, can affect a large number of other species in an ecosystem because many systems are connected to it. Examples of species that have gone extinct are the Chinese river dolphin and the golden toad.

The Chinese river dolphin is thought to have gone extinct around 2006, when a research team spent six weeks attempting to find any of it in the Yangtze River. Its decline has been attributed to overexploitation, pollution, and underwater explosions. The golden toad is thought to have gone extinct in 1989. It's home was in the Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica. It's extinction has been attributed to warmer seasons and a specific type of fungus that grows on the toad's skin and kills it.

The US passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, which required the listing and protection of species identified as threatened or endangered within the United States. Threatened species are those plants and animals with a high likelihood of becoming endangered. An example would be Guadalupe fur seal. It was added as threatened in 1985.

Endangered species are those species that have become so few in numbers that they are in danger of becoming extinct in a large part of their habitat. An example would be the false killer whale, which was added to the list of endangered species in 2012. Being protected by the Endangered Species Act means that there are restrictions placed around human activities from local, state, and federal government, as well as for private industry, that might impact said species or their habitat range.

Challenges to addressing endangered species include scientists often focus on an individual species instead of looking at ecosystems as a whole. This makes it difficult to identify species in danger and the causes. Often, by the time scientists identify that a species is potentially threatened or endangered, it may be too late to protect or reverse their decline.

In addition, efforts to protect species are sometimes slow, due to lack of funding and the challenge of enforcing said protection. And finally, some species are seen as more appealing to save. For example, in an ad campaign, which of these two species do you think would be more likely to receive funding for protection, despite the fact that both are endangered?

Now let's have a recap. We talked about extinction, US Endangered Species Act, and challenges to protecting endangered species. Well, that's all for this tutorial. I look forward to next time, bye.