20 Important Things to Know About Biodiversity

20 most important things to know about species and the loss of biodiversity

1.     Human activity has completely altered, disturbed, or degraded 50% of the earth’s land surface.

2.     Presently, the earth is experiencing its sixth great mass extinction event, caused not by volcanoes or asteroids as in the past, but by human

3.     Percentage of major organism categories under the threat of extinction worldwide: plants (14%), fish (34% of all fish;
        51% of freshwater fish), amphibians (25%), reptiles (20%), birds (12%), and mammals (24%).

4.     About 33% of the animal and plant species in the United States are vulnerable to premature extinction.

5.     Over 50% of the original wetlands in the United States have been destroyed by human activity (91% in California)

6.     There are probably somewhere between 5 to 20 million species on earth with about 1.4 to 1.8 million having been identified.

7.     The major causes of species extinction are the following:
     habitat destruction or degradation (primary cause of extinction)
    introduction of non-native, invasive species into ecosystems (second leading cause of extinction)
     climate change-global warming
    illegal hunting, poaching, and collecting
     air, soil, and water pollution

8.     Extinction can take place on three levels:
     local extinction – a species is extinct in a specific area but not worldwide
    ecological extinction – a species numbers have been reduced to the extent that it no longer plays a significant ecological role
     biological extinction – all members of the species are gone worldwide

9.     Scientists estimate that the present worldwide extinction rate ranges between 1,000 to 75,000 species per year ( 3 to 200 species
       per day worldwide)

10.   Species can be classified according to the scarcity of its individual members into the following five categories: common, rare,
        threatened, endangered, extinct.

11.   5.9% of the earth’s total land area has been protected from development

12.  50% of the earth’s tropical rainforests have been destroyed; 15 to 20 million hectares per year continue to be lost.

13.  The Theory of Island Biogeography states that the larger an ecosystem or habitat is, the greater the biodiversity that it will
        support.  Fragmenting habitats into small pieces reduces biodiversity.

14.   Why do we need to save species?
     because they provide us with a wide variety of economic goods
    because they are the source of our food crops
     because they contain a vast amount of genetic information that has evolved over millions of years
    because they are source of a large percentage of our medicines
     because they are used in scientific studies throughout the world
     because they provide us with recreation (hunting, birding, fishing, photography)
     they are important for the ecotourism industry
    because all living things have a right to exist (intrinsic value)
      because they provide us with beauty and something to appreciate
      future generations of mankind have a right to appreciate and use them
    because they provide us with ecological services (photosynthesis, pollination)

15.  Characteristics that make a species vulnerable to extinction:
     low reproduction rates, examples include the panda bear, manatee, and Calif. condor
    found in only one small area, not widespread
     specialized feeding habits (eats only one or two types of food)
    specialized breeding and reproduction areas (for example, sea turtles only lay their eggs on certain 
     high trophic level feeders – animals at the top of the food chain
     animals or plants that have a specialized niche
     low population density which reduces mating activity (e.g. blue whale)
    species that interfere with human activity (e.g. wolves) 
      large size which can make a species a more visible target or more commercially valuable.

  What can be done to save species?
     save habitat by establishing or enlarging parks, wildlife preserves, and wilderness areas

b)    regulate privately owned land

c)     pass laws to protect species

d)    reduce human population growth and consumption

e)     restore damaged habitats and reforest damaged forest areas

f)     establish captive breeding programs and seed banks

g)     educate the public on how to care for and protect the environment

h)    reduce and control pollution

i)      reduce the effects of global warming and ozone depletion

j)      prevent the establishment of non-native, invasive species into ecosystems

  What are important pieces of legislation that help to protect species?
     Endangered Species Act (1973) – protects species in danger of becoming extinct

        b)    C.I.T.E.S. Treaty (1975)  International treaty that protects species throughout the world

        c)     Lacey Act (1900) – prohibits transporting wild animals across state boundaries

        d)    Wilderness Act (1964) – preserves wilderness habitats permanently

18.  The three most biologically productive and species rich areas on earth are the tropical rainforests, wetlands, and coral reefs.  It is
        estimated that at least 40% of all species are found within the tropical rain forests.

19.  It is important that private land owners work with conservationists to save species and habitat because over 55% of the land in
       the U.S. is privately owned.

20.  Notable endangered species include: the California Condor, both Elephant species, Cheetahs, Indian Tiger, Black Rhino, Panda
       Bear, Mountain Gorilla, Desert Tortoise, Florida Manatee, Spotted Owl, Florida Panther, all Sea Turtles, and the Blue Whale.


© lbranch 2013