21 Species Lost, Ecosystems at Risk as Biodiversity Crisis Escalates

Recent news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has brought a grim announcement to the forefront of conservation efforts. The agency has finalized a rule that removed 21 species from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act due to extinction.

“My heart breaks over the loss of these 21 species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These plants and animals can never be brought back. We absolutely must do everything we can to avert the loss of even more threads in our web of life.”

Comprehensive action is now needed to combat the extinction crisis that threatens our planet.

A male Bachman's Warbler, in one of the last photographs taken of this species.

Photo: Dendroica bachmanii (cropped), Wikimedia Commons / Jerry A. Payne, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org‘ License: CC BY 3.0 US DEED
A male Bachman’s Warbler, in one of the last photographs taken of this species.

The List Of Extinctions

The 21 species that were declared extinct include birds, a bat, fish, and mussels, reports the Center for Biological Diversity. Among them are unique and irreplaceable creatures that are now lost to us forever:

  • Bachman’s warbler was a small yellow and black songbird that once inhabited the southeastern United States and Cuba. Its habitat destruction and collection led to its demise, with the last confirmed sighting in Cuba in 1962.
  • The bridled white-eye, a green and yellow forest bird from Guam, fell victim to predation by the invasive brown tree snake.
  • The Mariana fruit bat, also known as a flying fox, faced habitat loss due to agriculture and military activity, predation by the brown tree snake, and overharvesting for use as food.
  • The San Marcos gambusia, a tiny fish from Texas, went extinct due to water overuse that depleted groundwater and spring flow.
  • The Scioto madtom, a small catfish native to Big Darby Creek in Ohio, was last seen in 1957 and is believed to have been lost to silt accumulation from dams and runoff.
Bridled White-eye (Zosterops conspicillatus) was one of the species recently proposed for delisting from the Endangered Species List due to extinction.

Photo: Bridled White-Eye, Wikimedia Commons / Peter, License: CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED
Bridled White-eye (Zosterops conspicillatus) was one of the species recently proposed for delisting from the Endangered Species List due to extinction.

Eight freshwater mussels have been proposed for delisting:

The rest of the species proposed for delisting are all from Hawai’i:

The ivory-billed woodpecker, narrowly escaped inclusion on the list. An uptick in recent sightings may signal hope for the species yet.

The Mariana fruit bat (Pteropus mariannus) was proposed for delisting due to extinction.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Hudgins Ann, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, License: Public Domain
The Mariana fruit bat (Pteropus mariannus) was proposed for delisting due to extinction.

Connections To The Worsening Climate Crisis

These extinctions are not isolated incidents but are part of a much larger crisis. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, extinctions are driven by various factors, including habitat destruction, invasive species, and climate change. In particular, the introduction of non-native mosquitoes, which carry avian pox and avian malaria, proved to be a devastating blow to Hawaiian birds, reports Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. The loss of these species is a stark reminder of the interconnectedness of the extinction and climate change crises. Both pose a severe threat to our way of life, leaving our future generations with a planet that is considerably poorer in biodiversity.

The consequences of these extinctions extend far beyond the individual species. Each species plays a crucial role in maintaining ecosystems, providing services such as air and water purification, crop pollination, nutrient cycling, and climate regulation. This is the importance of biodiversity. On the flip side, as we lose species, the stability and health of ecosystems are compromised, putting our own well-being at risk.

San Marcos gambusia died out after their watery habitat dried up.

Photo: Mosquito Fish (Gambusia affinis), Wikimedia Commons / Clinton & Charles Robertson, License: CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED
San Marcos gambusia died out after their watery habitat dried up.

A Call to Preserve Biodiversity

The extinction of these species serves as a wake-up call for humanity. It is not only about saving individual species but about preserving the rich tapestry of life that makes our planet unique. All our food and most medicines are directly linked to plants and animals, and species are the building blocks of ecosystems that sustain life on Earth.

It’s crucial that we recognize the profound implications of these extinctions and take meaningful steps to prevent further losses, safeguarding our planet’s biodiversity for future generations.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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