The current ongoing wave of animal and plant extinction, the worst since the dinosaur era, is referred to as the sixth extinction. While extinction occurs naturally at a rate of one to five species a year, many experts believe that rate may have increased by a as much as 10,000 times in recent years.
In the most comprehensive report of its kind, prepared by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and published this month, the United Nations warns that up to 1 million of the world’s 8 million species of plants and animals are headed for extinction, some within decades. Many of them are driven to extinction by humans.
The report lists five primary changes in nature driving this bleak outlook. The first is land and sea use: three-quarters of the land environment and two-thirds of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human activity such as food production, mining, housing, and other types of development. Second is humankind’s direct exploitation of plant and animal populations through hunting, fishing, and harvesting. The other three high-impact threats to biodiversity are, in order: climate change, pollution, and the increased occurrences of invasive species, which have risen by 70% since 1970.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species tracks the health of the world’s biodiversity. In its detailed descriptions of threatened plant and animal species, the particular threats they face, and their gradual disappearance, the Red List paints a detailed picture of what extinction looks like. Unique species — as varied as ferns in Hawaii, snails in Indonesia, earthworms in New Zealand, and monkeys in Africa — are disappearing as human activity intrudes, habitats shrink, and predators are introduced.
24/7 Tempo reviewed the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. We listed the 10 plant and animal species that have been recorded in the wild as recently as 2008 but whose status was listed as “critically endangered (possibly extinct)” as of their most recent assessment.