Mapping Threats to Land Mammals, Amphibians and Birds: Study
September 29, 2021
The Sumatran orangutan, Malayan tiger, and eastern lowland gorilla all find themselves in a grim lineup, joining thousands of other species listed as critically endangered, their populations dwindling as the planet continues to march headlong into “the sixth mass extinction.”
The recent study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, uses data from the IUCN Red List of endangered species to map where these threats to terrestrial mammals, birds, and amphibians occur at a global scale. The six major threats to biodiversity addressed in the study are agriculture, climate change, hunting and trapping, invasive species, logging, and pollution. The researchers found that there are large areas of the globe in which animals have more than a 50% chance of encountering these threats.
The study found that, globally, agriculture is the greatest threat to terrestrial amphibians, mammals, and birds combined. Hunting and trapping are the most prevalent threat for terrestrial birds and mammals. Agriculture, invasive species, and pollution pose severe threats to amphibians in Europe, while birds are particularly affected by climate change in the polar regions, the east coast of Australia, and South Africa.
Plenty of wildlife animals are now facing habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, and habitat loss due to such factors as deforestation caused by the climate crisis. Climate change is driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns.
The main driver of climate change is the greenhouse effect. Many of these greenhouse gases occur naturally, but human activity is increasing the concentrations of some of them in the atmosphere, in particular, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases, etc. Modern agriculture, food production, and distribution are major contributors to greenhouse gases. With that being said, agriculture is directly responsible for 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation currently accounts for an additional 18% of emissions. With changes in temperature, this affects many wildlife animals, apart from other factors that decrease their population (poaching, wildlife trade, entertainment purposes, etc.)