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Dire study finds 40% of animals, 34% of plants face extinction

The red wolf is a critically imperiled species and part of the 40% of animals in the United States at risk of extinction, according to a study from NatureServ. Photo by Ucumari Photography/Flickr
1 of 4 | The red wolf is a critically imperiled species and part of the 40% of animals in the United States at risk of extinction, according to a study from NatureServ. Photo by Ucumari Photography/Flickr

Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Biodiversity in the United States is in a state of extreme tumult and a study from nonprofit organization NatureServ paints a dire picture of environmental collapse.

The Biodiversity in Focus: United States Edition report said 34% of plants and 40% of animals are at risk of extinction. The study is based on 50 years of data collected by the organization.

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"This new analysis of that data, a first in 20 years, makes crystal clear the urgency of that work," said Regan Smyth, vice president for data and methods at NatureServe.

"Two-fifths of our ecosystems are in trouble. Freshwater invertebrates and many pollinators, the foundation of a healthy, functional planet, are in precipitous decline."

According to the study, the animals at most risk are freshwater animals such as amphibians and snails, as well as freshwater insects. About half of all species of cacti and 200 types of trees are at risk of extinction.

The study also found 41% of ecosystems are on the precipice of collapse. More than 30 types of grassland ecosystems face the toughest challenge.

All tropical forests in the United States are classified as "imperiled," as are more than half of the tropical high Montana grasslands and shrublands, open rocks and tropical savannas.

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"We are currently experiencing and causing the Sixth Extinction -- the mass extinction of species across the planet. NatureServe's data highlight where the threats are right here at home," said Dr. Sean T. O'Brien, president and CEO of NatureServe.

"The plants, animals, and ecosystems found in our state, tribal, and federal lands are key components of our cultural and natural heritage."

The largest threats to plants and animals, according to NatureServ, are pollution, invasive species and climate change.

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