More than one-third of animals, plants at risk of extinction in US: report

More than a third of both animals and plants in the U.S. are currently at risk of extinction, while more than 40 percent of ecosystems are at risk of collapse, according to an analysis released Monday by nonprofit NatureServe.

The nonprofit group’s analysis, based on 50 years of data, determined that 34 percent of plants and 40 percent of animals are threatened, with wide variations for particular species and by region. About 37 percent of bee species are at risk, for example, with the threat greater in the Western U.S. than in the East. The plant species threatened include about 20 percent of grasses, some 200 tree species and nearly 50 percent of cacti. The report was first shared with Reuters.

The most at-risk animal species are those in freshwater habitats, including snails, amphibians, crayfish and mussels, according to the report. Not only are the conservation needs of those species frequently overlooked in environmental strategies, but they are also often essential to their ecosystems, risking a potential domino effect on their surroundings if they were to vanish.

At the ecosystem level, a slight majority — 51 percent — of 78 grassland types are at risk of collapse, while 40 percent of 107 native U.S. forests are at risk of collapse, according to the report. The analysis found a major risk for tropical ecosystems, with 100 percent in the U.S. at the highest threat level, but those make up a relatively small percentage of total ecosystems as there are only seven nationwide.

“For fifty years, the NatureServe Network has been collecting the information necessary to understand biodiversity imperilment in the United States. This new analysis of that data, a first in 20 years, makes crystal clear the urgency of that work,” Regan Smyth, vice president for data and methods at the nonprofitNatureServe, said in a statement. “Two-fifths of our ecosystems are in trouble. Freshwater invertebrates and many pollinators, the foundation of a healthy, functional planet, are in precipitous decline. Understanding and addressing these risks is critical if we are to forestall devastating consequences for the biodiversity that humanity needs to survive.”

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