The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified common myths about endangered species. For example:
Myth: Some people believe that extinction is a "natural" process and that we should not worry about it.
Reality: The reality is that while extinction in general may be a normal process, the high extinction rates that exist today are not. In many cases, the environment is changing so fast that species do not have time to adapt. Scientists have determined that a natural extinction rate is one species lost every 100 years. However, since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock over 365 years ago, more than 500 North American species have become extinct—that is more than one species becoming extinct per year.
Myth: The Endangered Species Act is causing loss of jobs and economic strain in many areas of the country.
Reality: When economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed the economic impact of endangered species, they found that states with many listed species have economies just as strong as those areas that do not have endangered species.
Myth: Billions of tax dollars are being spent on endangered species.
synchrony that not only threatens each partner in the relationship, but may also disrupt entire plant and animal communities."
John Weishample notes, "In nature, timing is everything. It's like a symphony that's ruined if one instrument comes in at the wrong time."
Doug Inkley, senior scientist of the National Wildlife Federation (an organization whose goal is to protect global wildlife diversity), says, "Global warming presents a profound threat to wildlife in this country, a threat that may equal or even surpass the effects of habitat destruction."
Inkley refers to a report that appeared in both Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America, published by the Wildlife Society,
Reality: The annual budget for the nationwide endangered species program is only about $60 million, which is roughly the equivalent of 23 cents per person in the united States. As a comparison—according to the u.S. Bureau of the Census—Americans spend more than $8.2 billion on pets, pet food, and pet supplies.
Myth: Most endangered species are worthless, insignificant, or lower forms of life that have no value to humanity. reality: Size and emotional appeal have no bearing on species' importance.
Myth: Thousands of private citizens have been prosecuted for harming or killing endangered species, even when the killing occurred accidentally. reality: Most of the people prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act are wildlife traffickers who illegally and knowingly collect rare wildlife and plants to sell for personal profit.
Myth: Many unsolvable conflicts with endangered species occur every year, stopping many valuable projects and hindering progress. reality: Of the 225,403 projects that were reviewed from 1979 to 1996, only 37 development projects were halted. That is one project stopped for every 6,902 projects reviewed. In most cases, projects that were halted did proceed once the project design was modified to avoid endangering a species.
a conservation organization that focuses on wildlife habitat through management actions using current scientific information. Through the analysis of hundreds of studies focusing on the consequences of global warming, it warns of potential upheavals of natural communities nationwide and the possible disappearance of some wildlife habitats, including New England's conifer forests.
Peter Marra, an ornithologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, says that for every 1.8°F (1°C) increase in springtime temperature at the breeding sites, migrants are arriving one day earlier, probably because they are able to pick up clues en route—such as earlier greening or more insects to eat—and begin traveling faster. But migrants still were not keeping pace with plants in the breeding habitat, which were budding three days sooner with each degree of warming.
Changes in the timing of seasonal behavior are one way that global warming is affecting wildlife. It is also causing species to migrate poleward in latitude and higher in elevation in mountain ecosystems. Some of the species having the most difficult time adjusting to changes in temperature and what that means for their habitat are some of Earth's most vulnerable and endangered wildlife species. The following list depicts some of the species that are most threatened:
• Black Guillemots: On Cooper Island in Alaska, they are declining as the sea ice melts, taking away the bird's primary food source, Arctic cod (which live under the ice).
• Sockeye Salmon: Abnormally high water temperatures and drought-induced low water flows have already killed tens of thousands of sockeye salmon in British Columbia. Scientists warn there will be more die-offs as temperatures rise.
• Sooty Shearwaters: These have decreased by 90 percent on the u.S. West Coast due to changes in ocean temperatures and currents as a result of global warming.
• Snails, Sea Stars and Other Intertidal Creatures: In Monterey Bay, California, they have been migrating northward for the past 60 years as sea and air temperatures get warmer.
• Edith's Checkerspot Butterflies: These extend from the west coast of southern Canada through northern Mexico, but their range is shrinking. In the southern reaches of their habitat, they have already become extinct.
• Mexican Jays: In southern Arizona, the breeding season has advanced 10 days between 1971 and 1998. During this time, spring temperatures have consistently risen 4.5°F (2.7°C).
• American Robins: In Colorado, they are migrating from low to high elevations where they now breed two full weeks earlier than they did in the late 1970s.
Marra also noted, "There's probably a limit to the birds' flexibility. Migration birds evolved to cope with gradual climatic changes, but the changes today are happening much faster."
• American Pikas: In the U.S. Great Basin, eight of the 25 major populations no longer exist. Already occupying the habitats highest in elevation on the mountaintops, they have nowhere to migrate when temperatures rise.
• Polar Bears: Melting sea ice has decreased the amount of time polar bears have to hunt seals, leaving them with a shortage of food. As a result, polar bears weigh less and have fewer cubs than they did 20 years ago.
• Red-Winged Blackbirds: The birds arrive at their breeding grounds in northern Michigan three weeks earlier than they did in I960.
• American Lobsters: In western Long Island Sound, large numbers of lobsters died mysteriously during September 1999. Some researchers believe it was the result of warmer water.
• Prothonotary Warblers: These travel from South America to Virginia a day earlier each year as springtime temperatures rise.
• American Alligators: Their distribution, which ranges from the Carolinas south to Florida and west to Texas, is shifting northward in some regions. Rising sea levels may also push them farther inland where they will interfere with developed areas.
• Loggerhead Sea Turtles: Loggerheads are threatened and need protection. Because of warming, they are coming ashore to nest 10 days earlier than they did in 1989.
• Coral Reefs: High water temperatures are causing corals to expel their symbiotic algae—or "bleach"—which can lead to coral death and damage to entire reef ecosystems.
• Golden Toads:This is the first species whose extinction was caused by global warming.
Global warming affects a wide diversity of species worldwide, which is the major reason why the solution to this problem needs to be global in scope.
Source: National Wildlife Federation
Beyond shifts at the species level, entire communities are being transformed as plants and animals in the same habitat respond differently to climate change. According to Terry Root, "In the future, well-balanced wildlife communities as we know them will likely be torn apart."
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