Mammals, Fish, Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles Suffering Decline 
Roads, Land Clearings, Excessive Hunting Reduce Populations 

Compiled by Badpuppy’s GayToday

From World Watch Institute Reports
Mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles-the higher animals known collectively as vertebrates-are suffering high rates of decline, reports a new study from the Worldwatch Institute. About one in four vertebrate species surveyed so far is in serious trouble-either declining sharply in numbers, limited to dangerously small populations, or facing pressure from land clearance, road building, excessive hunting and fishing, and other human activities.
"We are in the midst of a mass extinction, an event not seen since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago," says John Tuxill, a Research Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute and author of Losing Strands in the Web of Life: Vertebrate Declines and the Conservation of Biological Diversity.  "But unlike the dinosaurs, we are not just contemporaries of a mass extinction-we are the reason for it."  

In 1996, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), in collaboration with over 600 scientists, published a groundbreaking survey of the status of animal life on Earth. According to their estimates, 25 % of mammal and amphibian species, 11 % of birds, 20 % of reptiles, and 34 % of fish species surveyed so far are threatened with extinction. Another 5 to 14 % of species in these groups are "nearing threatened status."  

Scientists estimate that extinction rates are now 100 to 1,000 times greater than normal-and rising sharply. Since most species are unknown and unmonitored, the relatively well-studied vertebrates offer one of the best windows on why and how species are declining. "We have barely begun to decipher the ecological relationships that keep natural systems running smoothly," says Tuxill. "If the IUCN's findings are updated regularly, and become as widely discussed as  inflation or unemployment rates, we will have a powerful gauge for measuring the damage we are doing to natural systems."  

The leading causes of vertebrate declines are human destruction of old growth forests, wetlands, chaparral, and other rich habitats, including aquatic ecosystems; over-hunting and over-fishing-propelled largely by commercial markets for wildlife meat, hides, and other products; and the intentional and unintentional help that humanity gives to invasive species that can decimate native fauna.  

Tuxill examines a number of possible routes for reversing these mounting species declines and calls for expanded steps at every level to manage the environment in more ecologically sound and socially equitable ways. These steps include: strengthening existing national institutions like endangered species programs; strengthening international laws and agreements for protecting biodiversity-like the Convention on Biological Diversity (which the United States has yet to ratify); stabilizing the world's population and reducing over-consumption.  

World Watch Institute: