Extinction is part of the natural order. As long as plants and animals have existed on earth, species have become extinct and replaced by others. For this reason, it is not obvious to everyone why we should spend resources and money trying to save endangered species.
When Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, it prefaced the law with a statement that endangered species are important for aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value.
Although extinction has always been part of our world, the rate of extinction has grown much higher in modern times due to certain factors. The main reason is loss of habitat, which has a profound effect on wildlife. Other reasons are over-exploitation of wildlife for commercial purposes, introduction of harmful organisms, pollution and the spread of disease.
How does humankind benefit from the millions of species on earth?
- None of the creatures in the world live in a vacuum. Each is part of a larger biosphere and each biosphere is part of an ecosystem. When one ecosystem is affected, there is a ripple effect on other ecosystems. Therefore, the disappearance of one species will affect countless others. Of course, some species have a greater effect on their ecosystem than others.
- Biological diversity is also useful for human health. Many medicines are composed of ingredients that come from plants and wildlife. Medical research continues to find more medicines from the natural world. We have no way of knowing what kind of cures we could miss out on due to the extinction of a species.
- Some species which seem insignificant, such as insects, have recently been discovered to have great benefits to agriculture. Insects can keep other prey away from crops. Although we have not yet found a use for some specific species, this does not mean that they are useless.
- Endangered species are effective environmental indicators. When certain species become endangered, this can be a trigger for discovering what harmful environmental cause is behind it. For instance, when bald eagles became endangered, scientists were warned of the dangers of the use of DDT.
- Observation of animals and plants is a recreational activity, generating a large amount of income for the world’s economy.
- Every living thing has an intrinsic value and an extinct species is gone forever. For this reason, we should take care to preserve each and every species whether or not we can see a tangible benefit from it.