Should We Leave Certain Species Behind?

Theologia Papadelias

Should we let certain endangered species die out? Scientists have long stated that biodiversity is significant in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, but some are taking a seemingly unintuitive view that has been termed conservation triage. Conservation triage focuses resources on animals that can realistically be saved, and giving up on the rest. Those that fall into the too-expensive-to-save category might include the panda and the tiger.

Unfortunately, economic factors must be taken into consideration and some species require more money to save than others. For example, the California condor population saw an increase to 381, with 192 living in the wild, since 1987. An ongoing monitoring and maintenance program that costs more than $4 million a year helps keep them going. But is this program a success or merely a waste of finite resources? Continue reading

Species Decline and the 10th Convention on Biological Diversity

Gillian Lyons

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly, recognizing that human activity was causing a highly accelerated rate of species extinctions, and expressing concern that such mass extinctions could have far reaching social, economic, environmental and cultural impacts passed G.A. Resolution 61/203.  This resolution reaffirmed a target date, 2010, set at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, by which time a significant reduction in rate of loss of biodiversity should have been achieved.  2010, as the target date, was named the International Year of Biodiversity.    

           Now that it is 2010, it can easily be seen that this goal has not been achieved. Arguably, species, such as the West African Black Rhinoceros pictured above, are disappearing from the Earth at a faster rate than they were when the resolution was passed. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, in its Global Biodiversity Outlook publication, itself notes that while setting the 2010 goal spurred some 170 countries into creating biodiversity strategies, the goal of reducing the rate of extinctions is far from being met due to economic and political pressures. In fact, the publication acknowledges that continuing species extinctions far above historic rates will continue into the century.   

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Help Wanted: Herpetofauna Attorney

David Cassuto

Are you a herpetofauna attorney?  Do you want to be?  Do you know anyone who is?  Or, like me, do you just like saying “herpetofauna attorney?”  In any case, you may be interested in the job listing below with the Center for Biological Diversity

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Nonhuman Animals, Human-Created Environments

Cienega_de_santa_claraKarl Coplan

Sunday’s New York Times article about the threat to the La Cienega marsh on the Mexico-US border raises interesting questions about human responsibilities to maintain human-created environments that have been occupied by natural species.  The La Cienega marsh was created by the diversion of Arizona agricultural runoff too high in salt content to be returned to the Colorado River for downstream use.  While the federal government built a desalination plant nearly two decades ago for the purpose of purifying the runoff sufficiently to return it to the Colorado, this plant has never been operable due to technical and budgetary issues, and instead, the salty runoff was diverted through a series of pipes and channels to the Sonoran desert in Mexico.  Fed by this artificial diversion, a saltwater marshland sprang up, and populated itself with Thule grass, pelicans, and endangered Yuma Clapper Rail and Desert Pupfish.

Now, the federal government is planning to activate the desalination plant to recover the saline runoff.  The desal plant will discharge into the Colorado River, satisfying US treaty obligations to maintain Colorado River flow to Mexico, and freeing up more Colorado River water for upstream domestic and agricultural use by thirsty human activities in the Southwest.  The problem is that once the saline runoff is intercepted by the desal plant, the water source for La Cienega will dry up, the thriving wetlands will stop being wet, and the endangered species habitat will disappear.  Remarkably, the environmental impact studies for the desal plant did not consider these impacts on La Cienega. Continue reading