Should all Species that are endanger of going extinct be protected?
About a week ago, I took the GRE test to complete my application to Graduate School. Although I cannot disclose any questions on that exam, one of the questions got my mind racing a little, and I don't mean just because I was nervous. Rather, it related to wildlife and the endangerment of various species. Naturally, this inspired me to write about the subject matter.
As I already asked, should we as a society make efforts to protect all endangered species? Or perhaps only those that are endangered due to human actions? Or maybe no efforts to save any at all? Okay, maybe that last one is ridiculous. At least I'd sure hope we can all agree that saving (at least) some species is worth our time in some respects.
Realistically, we do not have the ability to protect everything. I firmly believe that old saying; an ounce of prevention is worth gallons of restoration. Species that are already at risk of being lost will require huge amounts of funding and effort to be saved. By huge I mean in many cases, millions or billions of dollars and thousands upon thousands of man hours, sometimes for a single species. This doesn't mean we shouldn't save a particular species, but it means we need to really evaluate where we are going to choose to focus our efforts.
Additionally, species go extinct ALL THE TIME. Throughout history, species have evolved and continue to do so. That little thing called Evolution. It's in the past, present and will continue to occur in the future. This means it is normal for species to go extinct. We need to assess, however, whether we are losing species at a faster rate now than in the past. If species extinction rates are similar to those pre-human civilization then perhaps extinctions are okay.
I personally believe extinction rates are higher now than in the past. This calls for protection of species, but not all species. Some would be lost naturally. How do we determine which are endangered because of human actions compared to natural causes? I don't have an answer. Maybe you do? Sure, we can safely say species such as Gorillas or Elephants are endangered because of human actions. Species that are exploited for direct human consumption are an obvious candidate for protection. But what about species that are suffering because we have changed their habitats, so the negative impacts are lagging behind our actual actions. They deserve protection too. What if a species become endangered because we have wiped out its food source, or another species in which it relied on a symbiotic relationship with to survive? Will we be able to detect and relate that to human caused? Additionally, climate change is occurring at a faster pace than previously. Coniferous trees are suffering (although not endangered yet but the potential is there and forests are diminishing across the Western United States) because pine beetles thrive and mutilate pines in this rapidly evolving climate. Which endangered species would still be thriving if it weren't for such a rapid change in climate?
I am standing in a conifer stand similar to the billions of acres that are dying off from Pine Beetles. Credit: Cody Edwards
I am not entirely sure we have an answer to these questions. I imagine society as a whole will choose to focus efforts on species they believe to be most valuable.
In essence, We as humans will need to find a way to protect species whom have value not only to us, but that would be lost due to our actions and would be detrimental if lost within their ecosystem.
Hope you enjoyed my semi scattered thoughts, and hopefully you'll have some input on the matter? As always, don't hesitate to write questions or comments! Start the conversation. That's what the community is for, Right?