Study Details Status Of U.S. Ecosystems: 40% Forests, Wetlands At Risk, 37 Percent Bee Species Face Extinction

A new report on the status of U.S. wildlife conservation reveals that 40% of animals, 34% of plants and 40% of ecosystems nationwide are at risk. The analysis — Biodiversity in Focus: United States Edition — was compiled by NatureServe, a nonprofit organization that assembles conservation data from a national network of scientists and organizations.

“This grim assessment adds to the mountain of science showing that we’re creating an extinction crisis,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s suicidal of us to pretend that business as usual is more important than safeguarding the natural world we all depend on.”

The study is the most comprehensive to date on the status of U.S. ecosystems. It found that 51% of grasslands and 40% of forests and wetlands are at risk of range-wide collapse. Only 12% of U.S. lands are currently protected.

“Grassland loss is the biggest U.S. environmental disaster that gets the least attention,” said Curry. “Conversion of grasslands to suburban sprawl and pesticide-intensive agriculture is a primary reason we’ve lost 3 billion birds and why we could lose monarch butterflies and vital pollinators.”

Among animals, the evaluation found that freshwater species such as mollusks, crayfish and amphibians are the most threatened groups because of water pollution and dams. Insects like butterflies, bees and dragonflies are also highly imperiled, with 37% of U.S. bee species facing extinction.

For plants, nearly half of cactus species are vulnerable, making them the most jeopardized plant group. Around 30% of ferns and orchids are at risk, as are 20% of tree species.

“By taking nature for granted we’ve pushed natural systems to the brink of collapse,” said Curry. “We’ve been so neglectful for so long, but we can create a different world that doesn’t exploit nature and vulnerable human communities for never-ending sprawl and consumption.”

Several policy proposals could provide solution to the biodiversity crisis. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which will be re-introduced in Congress, would provide more than $1 billion to states, Tribes and agencies for species conservation. The Extinction Prevention Act would provide funding to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recover the most endangered groups of species. Biden’s America the Beautiful Initiative is facing a ticking clock on enacting protections for 30% of U.S. lands and waters.

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