Biodiversity means a pack of wolves living in the furthest corner of Yellowstone National Park, and it also means the cardinal in your backyard and the butterfly in your local park. Each species is important because it is part of the larger natural systems on which we all rely.
And our remaining biodiversity today is increasingly being compromised.
Recent scientific evidence already indicates that approximately 1 million species threatened with extinctionand nearly 40 percent of all species in the world It could face extinction by the year 2100, or it could be in danger of extinction.. Even many species not yet on the verge of extinction have suffered massive population declines. For example, wild bird populations in the United States and Canada decreased by about 30 percent A staggering loss of 2.9 billion breeding adult birds over the past half century. Concretely, this means that there were three in 1970 for every two red-winged blackbirds that mark the beginning of spring today.
The main causes of many of these losses have been well known for decades but have accelerated in recent years: habitat destruction; soil, air and water pollution; and overuse of wildlife for food and other purposes. But now climate change is adding new threats and compounding long-standing problems by altering ecosystems, drying up lakes and streams, and warming the oceans. Other recent developments add new dangers: plastic pollution in the seas, It has increased tenfold since 1980invasive species increasingly threaten habitats and urban areas It has doubled since 1992.
These forces threaten to unravel the web of life that nourishes many species on this planet, including ourselves. The same natural systems that make life possible for other living things also make life possible for humans. Natural systems filter pollutants to provide clean air and water, maintain soil quality, and provide pollination and pest control for agriculture. The diversity of species produced by these systems provides us with food and medicine. Natural processes help mitigate climate change, as more than half of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by natural systems, which include, among others, old and mature forests. And a diverse and thriving natural world enriches our lives: scientific studies have linked time spent in nature with time spent in nature. reduced blood pressure and stress levels, better immune function and better sleep.
For all these reasons, we are not mere observers of the declining biodiversity around us. Our own future is inextricably linked to the health of the planet we live on and the health of the other creatures we share it with.
At Earthjustice we are working harder than ever to protect this future. Since our founding more than 50 years ago, we have fought to protect biodiversity. But today we are stepping up our efforts to recognize the scale of the current biodiversity crisis. In July 2021, we launched a new Biodiversity Defense Program to extend this branch of our work to new geographies and problem areas. In the first year of the program, we covered key new biodiversity issues, including:
- In Florida, fighting to stop the water pollution that is killing the state’s food sources for beloved manatees is causing an unprecedented more than a thousand manatee deaths in 2021 and 2022 from starvation. Endangered is the health of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, the most biodiverse estuary environment in North America, and a home for manatees and countless other species, including half of the fish caught each year in eastern Florida.
- Defending wolf populations that support biodiversity by keeping ecosystems in balance through healthy predator-prey interactions. We partnered with the Ojibwe Tribes of Wisconsin to oppose the state’s illegal wolf hunting plans, reversed the Trump administration’s effort to remove federal protections for gray wolves in most of the lower 48 states, and launched new efforts to reform the government’s faltering Mexican gray wolves. Recovery program in Arizona and New Mexico.
- Opposing new harvest permits for horseshoe crabs will further deplete the biodiversity of Delaware Bay, where crab eggs are an important stopover point for migratory birds globally. The loss of this critical food source will threaten migratory bird species that travel each spring from the southern tip of South America to their Arctic nesting grounds, and will also further deplete fish and other wildlife that depend on the eggs of the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population. for basic nutrition.
As these examples show, maintaining a diverse and beautiful world means protecting and restoring clean water, preserving natural systems, and making room for all species to find enough food and a place to live. Wild creatures need them, but we need them too. After all, we protect ourselves by conserving biodiversity.