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A trawler net packed full of fish
Overfishing is causing a sharp decline in the number of fish in our oceans.

Species Extinction

Did you know that 99% of all species that ever lived are now extinct? Extinction is a natural process and usually around five species a year die out. However, we are currently undergoing a "mass extinction event". That's when 75% or more species die out over a short space of time. Hundreds, if not thousands, of species are dying out EVERY DAY. The reason for this? It's humans, of course. The damage we are doing to the environment is destroying our fellow Earthlings.

So, what exactly are we doing that is killing so many plants and animals? Quite a bit, is the answer. We are polluting our air, rivers and oceans; we're chopping down forests and draining swamps to make way for farms; we're hunting fish and other animals to the brink of extinction, and our cities are sprawling, removing the natural habitats of so many species.

So, what can be done to protect those species which haven't died out yet? As always, it's governments that can make the most difference. But we can all take action - even if it is just writing to our MPs to let them know how we feel.

If you enjoy questions on science, then you might want to try our KS3 Science section. 50 quizzes covering a large variety of topics learned at this stage in school.

Extinction is nothing new. Earth is currently undergoing a "mass extinction". How many mass extinctions have there been before now?
There have been 5 mass extinctions:

444 million years ago, 86% of species were lost
375 million years ago, 75% of species were lost
251 million years ago, 96% of species were lost
200 million years ago, 80% of species were lost
And (most famously) 66 million years ago, 76% of species (including the dinosaurs) were lost

The current age is called the "Holocene extinction"
The dodo became extinct in the 1600s but was not recognised as such until the 1800s. Why?
Because few people believed that dodos ever existed
Because there was a living dodo in London Zoo
Because extinction was thought to be impossible
Because there were thought to be dodos living on the moon
Few people believed in extinction until it was proven by scientist Georges Cuvier, 150 years after the dodo died out
Humans are causing the sixth mass extinction event, but what is the biggest threat to species?
Habitat loss
Overhunting and overfishing
Climate change
There are many different threats to wildlife but, for the time being, habitat loss is the greatest. Climate change is expected to become the biggest threat unless action is taken soon
Which country has the greatest number of endangered species?
The UK
2,301 species in Ecuador are under threat. The United States and Malaysia come second, both having 1,226 endangered species
Invasive species pose a danger to wildlife. What is an invasive species?
A species that spreads disease
A species that is not native to a region
A species that hunts other species
A species that was created by humans
Invasive species cause problems for local wildlife, such as:

A lack of natural predators means their population can grow quickly
Native species might be unable to defend themselves against the newcomers
Native species may struggle to compete for resources
Many species are under threat due to poaching. What is poaching?
Overhunting and overfishing
Temperature increase
Illegal hunting
Egg stealing
Species such as elephants, tigers and rhinos (along with hundreds of others) are threatened by poaching
Loss of habitat is the greatest threat to wildlife. Which of the following is a cause of habitat loss?
The building of dams
Urban development
All of the above
Habitat destruction is caused by many human activities:

Mining for fossil fuels and minerals
River dredging
Filling in swamps and wetlands
Building river dams

These are just a few. Even something as apparently innocent as mowing fields destroys natural habitats
The number of fish in our oceans is shrinking. What is the main reason for this?
Alien abductions
Dumping rubbish into the sea
Oil spills
The number of fish in our oceans has halved since 1970. Some fish populations have been reduced to even lower levels than this by overfishing
Because of the damage we are causing to other species, scientists have given what title to humans?
Global superpredator
World killer
General destroyer
Universal monster
The reason we have earned this unwelcome moniker is that we kill apex predators (like sharks or tigers), as well as animals we eat. We also have a negative effect on food webs we should have no part in, due to pollution, habitat loss and the like. Humans do seem to be bad news for every other species we share the planet with
What can we do to help save species from extinction?
Protect habitats
Use alternatives to pesticide
All of the above
These are just a few of the ways we can help. Others include growing native plants, reducing our water consumption, not buying plastics, reducing our carbon footprints, boycotting polluting industries, and lobbying our MPs
Author:  Graeme Haw

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