This month is the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the Passenger pigeon, a very shameful anniversary for a bird that once numbered as many as 5 billion. The last one died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. Extinctions of species are not uncommon when the delicate balance of nature occasionally veers off-course.
Tonight, our very special guest, Stanley Temple, discusses the causes, potential future threats, and possible animal traits needed to weather these threats. Stan is the Beers-Bascom Professor Emeritus in Conservation at UW–Madison, and Senior Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.
Human impacts have been the most devastating. In just a 50 year time span, humans hunted the Passenger pigeon into extinction. Stan mentions the number one cause of extinctions around the world is the destruction and degradation of habitat. As our human population grows, we spread out into previously pristine, undisturbed natural surroundings. As ecosystems disappear, particularly wetlands and rain forests, species have no place to live. The effects of climate change on potential extinction is not well-understood, but Stan says this does cause a large amount of “ecosystem stress,” which effects a multitude of species at the same time. Those species prone to adaptability, the ability to adjust to a wide range of changing conditions, may have traits to survive. But, Stan says even these species may not have the genetic diversity to survive in the long run.
For more information on the threats to species and those hovering on the brink of extinction, visit the Center for Biological Diversity.
You can hear the entire interview that Stan did with PNM reporter Dennis Shaffer below: