What do we stand to lose as species go extinct?

By Martine Allars May 26, 2022
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Have you ever wondered what would happen to humans if we keep losing species? The answers are as compelling as they are galvanising.

Bees

Let’s face it, if the bees die our world will change for the worse. For starters, there will be an immediate worldwide food shortage. Imagine a third of the food on your plate just gone. We will also lose the jobs, crops and the animals that eat those plants. Entire ecosystems and food webs will collapse.

Who is to blame?

Well, you don’t need to look very far to find the answer. Introduced invasive species, industrial farming methods and nasty chemicals are the ugly culprits here. Today, bee populations are dying at an unprecedented rate around the world. In the Sichuan Province of China they have lost a staggering 80 per cent of their honey bees. Their crops are now pollinated by hand by people with sticks. Yep. That’s right.

Solutions?

(1) Plant a bee-friendly garden.

(2) Skip the chemicals.

(3) Keep your own bees.

(4) Whip up an insect hotel.

(5) Buy your honey locally.

Kangaroo Island’s Entoloma ravinense is now on the IUCN Red List. Image credit: National Herbarium of Victoria.

Plants, algae & fungi

We forget them, but our plants, algae and fungi are disappearing too. Let this sink in, for every animal that goes extinct, two plants will join them. Scientists argue it is likely even more than this. Why? Well, the fact is there simply isn’t enough funding to go around. This means that plants can become extinct even before they are discovered in the first place.

Right now, over 1300 Australian plant species are listed as threatened. Both climate change and urbanisation are largely at fault for this.

Solutions?

(1) Buy and plant native species.

(2) Support and visit national parks.

(3) Educate yourself on your local species.

(4) Don’t use chemicals.

(5) Volunteer at a local habitat.

Leafy sea dragons (Phycodurus eques) are at risk because of their popularity in the aquarium trade. Image credit: Justin Gilligan.

Leafy sea dragons

There is something so magical about seeing a sea dragon in person, but when was the last time you saw one? Our beautiful leafy sea dragons are now listed as endangered. The loss of their coastal habitats, water pollution and enthusiastic collectors have all eaten into their numbers.

Learn more about this special species. Video credit: Australian Museum.

In WA, hairy marron (Cheraz tenuimanus) – a freshwater crayfish – numbers are declining at an alarming rate too. Its sad demise coming at the hand of the smooth marron, an introduced species. There’s little hope now that they will survive the direct competition and hybridisation. It doesn’t help that they are also being illegally hunted for food.

Solutions?

(1) Reduce your plastic use.

(2) Eat sustainable options.

(3) Avoid chemicals.

(4) Don’t distrurb sealife or ocean habitat.

(5) Try organising a local beach or waterway clean up. You can find one near you here.

Learn more about Australia’s extraordinary and endangered animals and what you can do to help them, in our latest book. Order your copy here.

Australian Geographic Extraordinary & Endangered, $29.99, is out now.