A third of wild plants and an even greater proportion of animals are at risk of extinction in the US, according to a leading conservation group in its report, which sounded alarm bells about the state of wildlife across the country.
Using the insights of more than 1,000 scientists and evaluating five decades of data on the conservation status of plant and animal species in North America, NatureServe says that 40% of animal species and 34% of plant species face threats to their continued existence. in nature.
At the same time, up to 41% of ecosystems are on the brink of collapse across the country. And that number doesn’t include ecosystems like freshwater lakes and streams, caves, or coastal marine habitats.
degraded aquatic habitats
Among animal species, those most at risk are snails, with three-quarters of freshwater and land snails threatened with extinction. Aquatic habitats have been especially degraded, as many of them are being polluted, dammed and rebuilt, experts say. As a result, freshwater mussels are at a 65% risk of extinction. Crayfish (55% at risk), shrimp (48%) and fish (35% at risk) follow.
Amphibians are doing just as poorly, at 42% risk, while more than a fifth of reptiles are also at risk, as are many mammals. At the same time, a large number of insects and other land animals also face threats, especially bees. More than a tenth of the birds also face constant threats.
“As a group, the species associated with fresh water, including amphibians, snails, mussels, river crabs and many aquatic insects, have the highest percentage of species at risk, which highlights the importance of conservation strategies to protect the ecosystems of fresh water”, report the study authors.
Pollinators, another endangered group in the US
“Among pollinators, bees are particularly threatened, with 37% of species assessed to be at risk. The conservation needs of these and other invertebrate species are often overlooked, but many invertebrates are essential for maintaining the ecological functions of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.”, they explain.
Species of greatest concern include the Mississippi toad ( Lithobates sevosus ), the puppy Hole of the Devil ( Cyprinodon diabolis ), Kemp’s sea turtle Ridley ( Lepidochelys kempii ), the North Atlantic right whale ( Eubalaena glacialis ), the red wolf ( canis rufus ) and the black-footed ferret ( mustela nigripes ).
Endangered plants in the United States
When it comes to plants, cacti are most at risk (48%), but many species of orchids (27%), trees (20%) and grasses (19%) are also increasingly threatened. Maple Leaf Oak ( Quercus acerifolia ) is an example, but conservation plans to protect the plants are lacking, say the authors.
“Tropical ecosystems in the US are all at substantial risk, but represent relatively small proportions in number and area.”, they explain.
“Temperate grasslands, boreal grasslands and scrubland stand out among the highly threatened ecosystems that span vast areas of the country, with 51% of the 78 grassland types known to be at risk of collapse across the entire range. Temperate forests, boreal forests, and woodlands are also under multiple pressures, putting 40% of the 107 native forest types in the US at risk.”, they add.
However, conservation efforts can still make a difference for the country’s plants and animals, emphasizes Sean O’Brien, president of NatureServe. “If we want to maintain the range of biodiversity that we have today, we have to focus on the places where biodiversity is most threatened.“, it says.