Although species extinctions are part of the evolutionary process, current extinction rates are much greater than at any time in the last several million years. Current extinction rates are about 2,500 times the background rate at which species have disappeared due to evolution—that is approximately two species lost in every hour of every day! To address this issue, we need to recognize the major threats to biodiversity.
Many human activities threaten biodiversity either directly or indirectly, and virtually all current extinctions are due to human activities. While a myriad of threats potentially undermines biodiversity, each species faces its own specific suite of threats. Moreover, species in different regions of the world are more prone to some threats than others. If we are to mitigate these threats, we must first understand what specifically is threatening biological diversity in a particular region.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) maintains a list of imperiled and extinct species, known as the Red List of Threatened Species. The list can help us to understand just what threatens biodiversity around the world. In this exercise, you will obtain a list of threatened species for your chosen country and then contrast the causes of species imperilment in the United States with that of a developing country. From this assessment, you will develop an understanding of the primary threats to biodiversity in different places around the world.
There are a variety of reasons why species become threatened with extinction. Threats to biodiversity are often grouped into five basic categories: ecosystem loss, unsustainable (human) use, invasive species, pollution, and climate change. Note that these are very general classes of threats. The IUCN provides a far more detailed breakdown of threats, as you will learn over the course of this assignment.
In your paper, answer the following questions:
What are the major threats to wild species in the United States?
What are the major threats to species in the developing nation you have selected?
Based upon your threat rankings, are there any noteworthy differences between the two lists of threats? What might account for these differences?
Based upon the results of your analysis of threats to species in the United States, what conservation actions would you recommend in order to prevent future species extinctions? Suggest at least two specific steps that might be taken and explain why they might be effective.
Based upon the results of your analysis of threats to species in the developing country you selected, what conservation actions would you recommend in order to prevent future species extinctions? Suggest at least two specific steps that might be taken and explain why they might be effective.
How to Complete this Assignment
To answer these questions, you will be gathering species information from the database of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List database. You will be able to determine the number of species in a particular region that are facing a particular threat and rank the threats in order of impact. You will compare your results to determine if there is any evidence of differences in the importance of each threat in your country versus a developing nation. Lastly, you will propose separate sets of solutions to mitigating the major threat categories in both the United States and in the developing country that you have chosen.
Step 1. Determining Threats for the United States
Go to: https://www.iucnredlist.org/searchLinks to an external site.
On the left-hand menu, click on Land Regions and click on North America.
Click on the symbol to the right of the words "North America" and then check the box for the United States.
Scroll down the left-hand menu to Threats and click on it. You will see a numbered list of threat categories, with a number in parentheses next to each one. That is the number of IUCN red-listed species in the United States that are affected by that threat.
Some of the threat classifications may seem vague to you. For instance, you may be wondering what "Natural system modifications" includes. To find out, just click the symbol to the right of the threat name, and you will be able to view the threat type broken down into subcategories. For example, "Natural system modifications" also includes "Fire fire suppression", "Dams water management/use", and "Other ecosystem modifications".
Record the total number of species for each threat category. Then rank the different categories from 1 to 10 (we are not including Geological events or Other options), with 1 being the greatest threat and 10 being the least significant one. Use the following table to organize the data:
U.S. and Developing Nations Threat Categories
IUCN Threat Category
Residential commercial development
Energy production mining
Transportation service corridors
Biological resource use
Human intrusions disturbance
Natural system modifications
Invasive and other problematic species, genes diseases
Climate change severe weather
Step 2. Determining Threats for a Developing Country
You will basically repeat the actions for Step 1, but this time working with a developing country. A list of developing nations can be found here Links to an external site.. https://isge2018.isgesociety.com/registration/list-of-developing-countries/ Please choose a country from the ones on this list.
Go to: https://www.iucnredlist.org/searchLinks to an external site.
On the left-hand menu, click on Land Regions and click on the land region where your country can be found. For instance, if you selected "Ghana", you would select Sub-Saharan Africa.
Click on the symbol to the right of the name of your chosen region and then check the box for the country you selected.
Scroll down the left-hand menu to Threats and click on it. You will see a numbered list of threat categories, with a number in parentheses next to each one. That is the number of IUCN red-listed species in your chosen country that are affected by that threat.
Record the total number of species for each threat category. Then rank the different categories from 1 to 10 (we are not including Geological events or Other options), with 1 being the greatest threat and 10 being the least significant one. Use the table provided above to organize your data.
While the U.S. and other developed countries are facing certain threats to biodiversity such as habitat loss and urbanization, developing countries are facing more intense and varied dangers to their biodiversity due to their limited resources and infrastructure. Biodiversity is a critical component of the Earth’s ecosystems, providing crucial services like nutrient cycling, pollination, climate regulation, and the production of food and medicine. Unfortunately, this biodiversity is under threat from a variety of sources, and the threats to biodiversity vary dramatically between the United States and developing countries. While the U.S. and other developed countries are facing certain threats to biodiversity such as habitat loss and urbanization, developing countries are facing more intense and varied dangers to their biodiversity due to their limited resources and infrastructure.
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