According to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), 40,000 small but vital plant and animal species are not the only ones causing extinctions.
A recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) study cited by the center found that 16% of all species of dragons and damselflies, among many others, are threatened with extinction due to factors such as the misuse of pesticides and wastewater discharges.
Wetland ecosystems around the world “are disappearing three times faster than forests,” Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General, said in a statement.
“Marshes and other wetlands can seem unproductive and inhospitable to humans, but in fact they provide us with essential services. They store carbon, give us clean water and food, protect us from flooding, and provide habitat for one in ten known species in the world, ”said Oberle.
In the United States, 85 percent of wetlands have already been destroyed by “reckless planning” that has led to the extinction of species such as the Bachmann’s warbler and the ivory-billed woodpecker.
Wetland species face a risk of extinction a thousand times greater than others, according to the CBD.
Few of the species in question are household names, but many serve as key foundations for local ecosystems, with their absence likely to collapse more widely.
Populations of rabbit-foot mussels native to the Great Lakes and Ohio River watershed, which have been reduced to about half of their former range, are threatened by a predicted increase in sewage discharges to streams outside of Columbus, according to the CBD.
And a new dam planned for Little Canoe Creek in Alabama risks wiping out the Canoe Creek clubshell, an endangered mollusk that depends on clean, pollutant-free and silt-free water for its survival, according to the CBD.
Sewage discharges and dams are only part of the problem: 41 percent of insect species worldwide are in danger of extinction due to the conversion of their habitats to agriculture and the increase massive water-borne pesticides, including glycophosphates and neonicotinoids, according to a 2019 Biological Conservation Study.
“There is an urgent need to rethink current agricultural practices, in particular a significant reduction in the use of pesticides and its substitution by more sustainable and ecological practices, in order to slow down or reverse current trends”, indicates the analysis.
According to a study conducted this year by the American Chemical Society, 90% of American feeds tested by scientists contained pesticides or their toxic byproducts, with impacts that scientists say could be increased tenfold “or more” .
“The pesticide industry has conditioned Americans to believe the fiction that these highly toxic pesticides magically disappear,” Jess Tyler, a CBD scientist, said in a statement about the research.
The Trump administration weakened many restrictions on pesticide use in 2019, including limiting scrutiny of the effects when rains dump pesticides into waterways – measures that were “antithetical to plain language and to the objective “of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to the law. files of ten state attorneys general.
The Biden administration has pledged to reverse the rollback of Trump-era environmental protections and in August passed new measures restricting the use of the insecticide paraquat, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
But the current administration has also championed many Trump-era pesticide policies, including an approval of the pesticide malathion that downplayed the number of endangered species it risked wiping out from 1,284 to 78, according to the nonprofit Investigate Midwest news service.
Meanwhile, three overlapping bills aim to address America’s extinction crisis.
The Extinction Crisis Emergency Act, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Marie Newman (Illinois) and Jesús Garcia (Illinois), would declare a national emergency around wildlife extinctions and order all federal agencies to protect species and preserve them. habitats.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, sponsored by Rep. Debbie dingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann Dingell Wetlands signal extinction issues beyond climate change The Hill’s Morning Report – Featured by Facebook – The omicron threat and Biden’s plan to defeat it Debbie Dingell’s Dearborn office vandalized (D-Mich.), Would provide funds to states and tribes to prevent populations of endangered species from declining to the point where they need ESA protections.
And the Extinction Prevention Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) And Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) would provide specific federal funding for the most endangered – but “least charismatic” species. – in America, including butterflies, desert fish and freshwater mussels.
The new studies highlight a point with implications far beyond wetlands: climate change is only one component of a much larger extinction crisis.
Recounting a friend’s article “on the extinction of the Monte Verde golden toad,” University of Arizona researcher Emily Schultz working on a separate analysis was left with a question: “was- Was it the climate or was it the invading chytrid fungus that caused the cross to massive deaths? The bottom line for Monte Verde’s Golden Toad was that this was an interaction between the two. The year of extreme drought, they had then reduced the size and number of ponds in which the frogs were. Because they were crowded into smaller ponds, they transmitted the fungus more quickly.
The way climatic and non-climatic factors stack up on top of each other suggests “that we are running out of time to save wildlife and ultimately ourselves,” Tierra Curry, senior scientist at the CBD, said in a statement. communicated.
“The Biden administration must muster the political will to move away from dirty fossil fuels, change the toxic ways we produce food, restrict the wildlife trade, and end continued habitat loss . We can actually do these things, ”she added.