#Extinction and Falling #Biodiversity
This year, 2015, lethal heat waves and storms are making it clear that humanity is changing the Earth. A growing majority of people in all countries around the world realize that they are conducting a worldwide Holocaust that is killing billions of animals and plants. Research coming from many sources indicates that during human recorded history, world-wide extinctions may have already reached 7%.
Extinction isn’t the only concern. Total extinction of a species usually results after years of decline. In 2014, the World Wildlife Fund, the Zoological Society of London, and other organizations published an extensive analysis of more than 10,000 wildlife studies. The analysis reached a stunning conclusion: The total number of animals on Earth has declined by more than 50% since 1970. Rates of decline vary across species groups. Birds, for instance declined by 40%. Other groups, especially those dependent on freshwater, have declined by 70%.
Wild animals in Arizona and the Agua Fria River Basin are declining at rates comparable to the rest of the world. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has collected the observations and summarized them on the Department’s website (http://azgfd.gov). The table below shows the numbers of species in some major wildlife groups that the Department considers critically imperiled (S1), imperiled (S2), and vulnerable (S3).
ARIZONA WILDLIFE CONSERVATION STATUS
Species Group Natives* S1+S2+S3**
Amphibians 31 18 (58%)
Birds 451 260 (58%)
Fish 40 40 (100%)
Lizards 67 27 (40%)
Mammals 189 64 (34%)
Snakes 76 35 (46%)
Turtles 10 6 (67%)
TOTAL 864 450 (52%)
*Number of Arizona Native Species
**S1=Critically Imperiled, S2=Imperiled, S3=Vulnerable
The most imperiled Arizona species are those that live in or close to water. For example, there are 40 Arizona native fish species. The Department considers all of them vulnerable (S3) or worse (S1 or S2). I have made checklists for the major groups of Arizona species ranked by the Department.
Some of the state’s endangered species are on the official U. S. Endangered Species Act list of threatened and endangered species. Most are not. Click here for the official list.
Nature conservation is the great challenge of our time. Human beings are imposing the great death, the sixth mass extinction of Earth’s creatures. The Arizona statistics are typical worldwide. As we realize how great our impact has become, as we realize that our buildings and our wastes are destroying and poisoning the homes of our fellow creatures, and as wildlife managers and scientists tell us that we need these creatures to survive ourselves, we begin to ask what we can do to stop the damage and make repairs.
Arizona’s diverse habitats host a truly rich mixture of plant and animal species. Here we can see more than half of the bird species found in the entire United States, half of the country’s mammal species, and more ant species than any other state.
Our town is located near the upper end of the Agua Fria River Basin. With pine-topped mountains and chaparral foothills on both sides of the Basin, and with desert grassland in the north and the Sonoran Desert in the south, we have habitats suitable for a large percentage of the State’s wildlife. No one knows how many species live in or pass through Dewey-Humboldt, but those of us living here know that the number is quite high.
Arizona Endangered Species Descriptions
I am beginning a series of short articles about the state’s endangered species. For species that the Department considers Critically Imperiled (S1), Imperiled (S2), or Vulnerable to Extinction (S3). Please send me your comments and suggestions and attend the meetings. The inaugural meeting is at 10:00 am, August 15, 2015, at the Dewey-Humboldt Historical Society Museum on Main Street in Humboldt.
As we talked about at your house, many of the reptile species listed as S1 to S4 do not really deserve those designations. They are designated as such due to a lack of data for each. Common snakes can receive a lower S number simply because they are cryptic in their habits and seldom seen. The Mountain Kingsnake and Milk Snake have low S numbers, but are actually very common in their respective habitats if you know how to search for them. We are trying to get a clearer picture of AZ reptiles and amphibians, but it takes time and experienced observers. The http://www.naherp.com database is expanding our knowledge for many species and will someday paint a much clearer picture of what is common and what is not, but we need many more participants.
I cannot speak for the mammals, birds, fish or plants, but in AZ there are currently only 3 species of snake that deserve the endangered or threatened status. Those are the Narrow-headed garter, Mexican garter and NM Ridge-nosed rattlesnake. The two garters have been impacted by non-native bullfrogs, crayfish and fish (bass, etc). They will not recover until the non-native threats are removed from their habitats. This will take volunteers by the thousands to eradicate the threats. Perhaps your group could start this movement, because the govt. will never get it done. The rattlesnake, on the other hand, simply has a very small range in the U.S. and that is why it is listed.
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