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Winter 2016-17 - Act•ionLine

World Population Growth and Extinction

July 11 was World Population Day. And According to the Population Reference Bureau, 237, 211 more people are added to the planet every day as every second worldwide, five people are born and two people die. Already the world population is 7.3 billion and it’s growing by 80 million a year.
 

And we are fast becoming a single human-dominated species as we have already used about half the world’s land surface to grow crops, raise livestock, construct roads, and build towns and cities.


So where does wildlife stand in relation to 7 billion people? According to the Center for Biological Diversity, worldwide, 12 percent of mammals, 12 percent of birds, 31 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of amphibians and 37 percent of fish are threatened with extinction. And Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimates that 30,000 species per year, or three species per hour, are being driven to extinction. Compare that to the natural background of one extinction per million species per year, and you understand why scientists refer to it as a crisis unparalleled in history.
For the Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon, it’s already too late. The kokanee steadily declined as Seattle sprawled eastward, polluting its water and destroying it spawning habitat. It went extinct in 2001. These animals have also gone extinct in the wild recently thanks to human overpopulation and overconsumption:


WEST AFRICAN BLACK RHINO—2011
PYRENEAN IBEX—2000
CARIBBEAN MONK SEAL—2008
GOLDEN TOAD—2007
SPIX’S MACAW—2000
LIVERPOOL PIGEON—2008

 

Here’s a brief look at some other animals who may follow suit if the world ignores human population growth. The Center for Biological Diversity warns that the Florida panther is also on the brink of extinction. Only about 100 individuals remain in just 5 percent of the species’ historic range. While the panther’s numbers have plummeted over the last 30 years, Florida’s human population has nearly doubled. From 2000 to 2010, Florida’s population increased by 2,818,932 people. As the coasts become fully developed, Florida development is increasingly moving inland, where it comes in direct conflict with panthers. The five counties that contain the last remaining panther population are projected to grow another 55 percent in the next 30 years.


The spotted leopard is in jeopardy. A study released in May by National Geographic reports that 75 percent of the spotted leopards’ habitat is gone. Once upon a time, they roamed 13.5 million square miles of habitat in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The big cat’s habitat has shrunk to just 3.3 million square miles and stands to shrink even more because of booming human populations, animal agriculture and other development to house and feed people.


In California, the endangered giant kangaroo rat and endangered San Joaquin kit foxes are suffering from fragmentation because of urban development and ranching. And a four-year drought is making matters worse. A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley reveals a 95 percent population loss since 2010. And as the kangaroo rat disappears, so do a variety of other threatened animals that rely on this keystone species, an animal that plays a crucial role in the ecosystem, to live, such as snakes, badgers, weasels, kit foxes, coyotes and
birds.


Just in the United States and its outlying territories alone, more than 2,500 species are listed as endangered and threatened species. And as human population continues to grow in the U.S., reaching up to 400 million by 2050 (as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau), many more species will be added to the list. Even worse, many species already on the list will likely become extinct.

 

Act•ionLine Winter 2016-17

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