Love Not Loss
AP Environmental Science
Every year an estimated 2,000-10,000 species are added to the long lists of animals known to be extinct or endangered. According to many scientists, the extinction rate is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate just because of the presence of humans. These species and the ecosystems that they are a part of are estimated to be worth $33 trillion. In comparison, the U.S. GDP is only about $15 trillion (2008). These ecosystems provide more than just an economic boost. The more biodiversity an ecosystem offers, the greater the chance that some of the plants and animals hold the key to new cures for different diseases that affect millions of people. The protection of animals is vital to maintaining economic security, ecosystem biodiversity, and the overall well being of our planet.
"How Does Biodiversity Loss Affect Me and Everyone Else?" WWF. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2013
Gray Wolf (Canis Lupis)
The Gray Wolf is a misunderstood and underappreciated species. Old fairytales and folklore have led people to believe that the Gray Wolf is an enemy of society. They have been trapped for their fur, hunted because of their preying on livestock, and killed out of fear for hundreds of years. Though they are a top predator in most ecosystems, their role isn't one to be feared. The presence of the Gray Wolf in an ecosystem is vital to the maintenance of biodiversity. They control the populations of elk and other herbivores and small prey, which in turn prevents overgrazing. When these populations aren't capped, they begin to kill off many species of shrubs and trees. These plants are home to a countless number of birds, insects, and other small mammals. The presence of these plants is also important to the survival of larger mammals.
Because of the efforts of groups like IUCN, WWF, and Yellowstone National Park, the Gray Wolf population is increasing. Over the last several years, their status on the IUCN Red List of endangered species has improved from Threatened to Least Concern. By working to raise global awareness of the problems facing this species and through their attempts to reintroduce the Gray Wolf to remote areas in Europe and North America, the previously mentioned groups have sucessfully helped begin the process of saving a species.
Marine Otter (Lontra Felina)
Due to poaching and hunting because of the belief that marine otters were high competition with fisheries, the marine otter is listed as an endangered species. Habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing have also attributed to this species' decline. What would happen if this species were to disappear forever? Without the marine otter preying on the first level consumers, the seaweed and kelp that are abundant in their habitats would decline because of the increase in fish, mollusks and other consumers, thereby throwing of the ecosystems balance. With the number of marine otters decreasing, it is predicted that there will be future population reductions of at least 50% over the next 30 years. Marine Otters are protected by Peruvian, Chilean, and Argentinian law and are listed in Appendix I of the CITES.
Steller's Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas)
Seafarers have exhausted this poor defenseless species to extinction for the lust of material gain. Once the population of Seal and Otter in the coastal regions of which the species was located were drawn to near extinction, the Sea cows found themselves in an awkward place. No otters or seal were able to maintain the levels of sea urchin that populated the coast which led to overpopulation, thus blotting out the food supply of kelp that the Stellar's Sea Cow was dependent on. With its population dwelling from starvation, the Stellar's Sea Cow was eventually hunted to extinction from sailors seeking boat/clothing/misc materials with no hunting restrictions to protect the Sea Cow from the likes of man.