An update released last week by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that more than a quarter of plants and animals around the globe are threatened with extinction.
The new IUCN Red List identifies more than 40,000 species as threatened, out of around 140,000 species for which there’s enough information to determine conservation status.
“Every new look at extinction shows that we’re running out to time to save wildlife and ultimately ourselves,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Biden administration has to muster the political will to move away from dirty fossil fuels, change the toxic ways we produce food, curtail the wildlife trade and halt ongoing loss of habitat. We actually can do these things.”
Among the species assessed today, IUCN found that more than 6,000 species of dragonflies and damselflies exist and nearly 1,000 of those species are at risk — that’s around 16% of known species. Dragonflies and other freshwater wildlife are threatened by dams, pesticides, pollution, climate change, unsustainable agriculture and development.
“Dragonflies are not only gorgeous, but they’re also indicator species that tell us a lot about the health of rivers and wetlands. The serious threats they face are a huge red flag that we have to do better,” said Curry. “The ongoing damming of rivers and loss of wetlands wipes out wildlife and harms humans with increased risks of flooding and diseases.”
The United States has already wiped out 85 percent of wetlands, which has helped drive species like the ivory-billed woodpecker and Bachman’s warbler extinct. Compared to other species, freshwater species are 1,000 times more likely to face extinction. Earlier this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the extinction of 23 species, including eight freshwater mussels and two fish.
Around the country, animals that rely on rivers continue to be put in harm’s way by careless decision-making.
In Ohio, a planned increase in sewage treatment discharge into Big Darby Creek from Plain City, a suburb of Columbus, will push endangered mussels like the rabbitsfoot and rayed bean closer to extinction. In Alabama, a new dam on Little Canoe Creek planned by Alabama Power could drive the Canoe Creek clubshell to extinction.
In 2019 United Nations scientists announced that 1 million species worldwide face extinction if humans don’t act quickly to save them. This is based on conservative estimates that 10 percent of all insects and 25 percent of all other species are at risk. Other estimates indicate that up to 40 percent of insects could be at risk.
A scientific review of global insect decline concluded that a major reduction in pesticide usage is key to avoiding the loss of up to 41 percent of insects within decades. In the United States, the majority of analyzed streams are polluted by pesticides at levels that are harmful to aquatic life, including the endangered Hines emerald dragonfly.
Earlier this year the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Environmental Protection Agency for issuing a Clean Water Act permit that fails to fully assess the risks posed to freshwater endangered species by pesticides applied directly to water. Commonly used herbicides like glyphosate and atrazine were recently found to harm the majority of protected endangered species.
“We can and must save life on Earth. In the face of the federal failure to act while the planet melts down around us, individuals, cities and states have to protect wildlife and fight climate change,” said Curry.