What factors are producing extinctions today?
- Habitat loss: As the human population continues to expand, essential habitats around the globe are being destroyed. Deforestation for human settlement is a huge and ongoing cause for organism extinction. Space and resources are becoming limited, and the increased competition is causing many to die out.
- Invasive species: When species are introduced to an area in which they are not native, they have the potential to out-compete endemic species for resources. Invasive organisms have no natural predators, and they can prey on organisms that have no experience in defending themselves from their attacks. This allows their populations to grow exponentially, and causes the decline of native populations.
- Overexploitation: Especially in marine species, humans are causing the decline in species’ numbers. Mass fishing and hunting for valuable organisms have caused species to become endangered and even extinct. Potential for monetary gain dominates over awareness of resource depletion.
- Pollution: The dumping of toxic chemicals into natural habitats is also causing a decline in species. Pollutants can cause sickness in organisms that lead to death. Proper disposal of pollutants could end this cycle.
- Native species interactions: This is when the natural process of competition and predation cause the decline of a species. Fossil records show a history of extinctions that have been due to these kinds of processes.
- Natural causes: Natural disturbances such as fires and droughts can devastate populations. Again, these extinctions are considered “background extinctions” because they are necessary for future development and have been going on historically.