Endangered Species

NEET'22 Crash Course

Endangered Plants and Endangered Animals

Endangered species are the ones who are at higher risk or threat of getting extinct. There are numerous factors, including the natural and human-made ones, leading to the shortage of their number. These species sooner or later enter the extinction phase, and to prevent this, one must take some necessary actions.

A species that was earlier native to a region and its population in that region then reduced rapidly and is known as an endangered species. UCM made a red list containing all the endangered plants and animals. There is also a Red data Book that the Russian federation established, and it also serves the same purpose as the red list.

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Factors Affecting Endangered Species

An Endangered animal or plant is affected by several factors, including hunting, habitat loss, climatic changes, disease, pollution, deforestation, and other natural and human-made calamities. Currently, the rate of extinction is also rapidly growing, and most of them are due to the effects of human activities like industrialization and deforestation.

The current status also shows that around 1/4th of all mammals are endangered. These not only affect the ecological balance and values but are also affecting economically, legally and ethically. Several species that are the sources of food and medicine are endangered, which is adverse for the entire World.

There is a growing need for conservation to reduce the endangered animals’ list and plant list entries. Restoring the habitat is the main objective of conservation, and various awareness programs are thus thriving, with the critical agenda being the importance of protecting wildlife. Several governmental and non-governmental organizations are stepping forward for the cause.

Loss of habitat and genetic variations are two critical reasons for a species becoming endangered.

Loss of Habitat

This phenomenon can occur naturally. For example, around 65 million years ago, Dinosaurs lost their habitat. The Cretaceous period quickly changed, mainly due to an asteroid striking the Earth. The asteroid left an impact on debris, forcing them into the atmosphere and reducing the heat and light amount reaching the Earth's surface. The cooler habitat became different to adapt for Dinosaurs, and they became endangered and then ultimately extinct.

Human activities also contribute to habitat loss, like housing development, industrialization, agriculture, etc. All the developments require land and thus lead to deforestation and loss of habitat. Sometimes, development is also the direct cause of habitat loss. Several flora species get endangered and extinct with deforestation, and several fauna species get endangered and extinct when they lose their habitat and living and eating resources due to deforestation.

Habitat loss might also occur as the development increases. Several species have huge ranges; the Mountain Lion of North America has around 1,000 Km. This is how much they must patrol in their territory to ensure perfect life and reproduction. And with development, their range is forcefully reduced, thus affecting their lives.

Furthermore, due to habitat loss, there are also many encounters between wild species and humans. People might also get exposed to poisonous plants and animals, and some dangerous species might get closer to residential regions. Even though the species are only patrolling their range, these encounters might be deadly.

Genetic Variation Loss

Genetic variation is some diversity that exists within the species. This is the reason why people exist in different complexions, hair colors, heights, etc. Due to genetic variations, people are allowed to adapt to changes. Inbreeding means reproduction with closer family members. Species with inbreeding usually have lower genetic variations due to the lack of introduction of newer genetic information within the groups. However, in such species, diseases are rapidly spread and minimal, or none of them gets resistant to fight them, thus getting endangered or extinct.

Genetic variation loss can occur naturally. For example, Cheetahs, the threatened species of Asia and Africa, have lower genetic variation. This is a significant reason why only a few of them are left now, and they are almost on the verge of getting extinct. Human activities also lead to the loss of genetic variation. Overfishing or overhunting reduces the population, and thus, there are only fewer breeding pairs left. Due to the existence of fewer breeding pairs, the genetic variation also shrinks.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1: Briefly Explain the Red List.

A1: International Union of Conservation of Nature maintains the Red List of threatened species. The list defines the severity and several causes of a species getting threatened and then extinct. It contains seven conservation levels: least concern, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered species, extinct in the wild, and extinct. Each category has a different threat level for the contained species. 

Species not threatened by extinction come in the first two categories, the ones most threatened come in the next three categories, and the ones extinct in some form are placed in the last two categories. Based on their range, population and habitat, the species are considered endangered if they fail to meet the desired limit. This is why some species can be of the least concern in some regions and endangered in others.

Q2: What are Some Key Factors that decide whether a Species is Endangered or not?

A2: Here are some critical deciding factors for endangered species:

  1. Population Reduction Rate: An endangered plant or animal is considered when the population declines between 50% to 70%. This decline is measured for ten years or three generations of the species.

  2. Geographic Range: An endangered animal or plant occurrence extent is less than 5,000 square Km. Their occupancy area is lower than 500 square Km.

  3. Population Size: Any species gets endangered when there are less than 2,500 mature individuals. When a species' population declines by at least 20% in 5 years or two of their generation, it’s also considered endangered.

  4. Population Restrictions: A species is classified as endangered when its population restricts to lower than 250 mature individuals. When a species has this lower population, its occupancy area is not considered.

  5. Extinction Probability: This rate in the wild is at least 20% within 20 years or five generations of the species.