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Species Extinction

- December 15, 2017
Is a mass die-off underway?
Featured Report

Fossil-fuel burning, deforestation, overhunting and other human activities are driving more and more animals, birds and plants to extinction, scientists say. Since 1970, the number of vertebrates — mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish — has dropped by more than half, and almost 200 species have become extinct. The loss of so many species in such a short time signals that a mass extinction, in which at least 75 percent of all species disappear, is occurring, many researchers say. A mass extinction would take place over thousands of years, endangering the global food supply and perhaps even human survival. But other scientists deny such a catastrophe has begun. The losses are part of the planet's evolutionary history, they say, noting that as species die new ones take their place. Still, both sides agree that humans must do better at protecting Earth's biodiversity — the web of dependency that ties together plants, animals and humans. Many scientists say that adopting biodiversity-friendly alternatives, such as using renewable fuels and better managing suburban sprawl, could significantly slow the disappearance of plants and wild animals.

Trump Administration

President Trump is scaling back environmental regulations that protect wildlife.

Global Developments

Governments worldwide are doubling down on conservation efforts.

50,000 B.C.–A.D. 1800sAs humans spread across the planet, overhunting on several continents threatens large animals with extinction.
1900s–1970sResearchers explore the decline of wild species.
1980s-PresentConcerns grow that human activities are leading to a sixth major mass extinction.

Should cost factor into whether a species is listed as endangered?


Robert Gordon
Senior Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation.


Nora Apter
Legislative Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council.


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