Animal species endangerment: The role of environmental pollution

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Edited by:
David J. Hoffman , Barnett A. Rattner ORCID iD , G. Allen Burton Jr. , and John Cairns Jr.



Multiple factors contribute to the decline of species. Habitat destruction is the primary factor that threatens species. affecting 73 % of endangered species. The second major factor causing species decline is the introduction of nonnative species. affecting 68% of endangered species. Pollution and overharvesting were identified as impacting, respectively, 38 and 15% of endangered species. Other factors affecting species decline include hybridization, competition, disease, and other interspecific interactions. Once a species is reduced to a remnant of its former population size and distribution, its vulnerability to catastrophic pollution events increases, frequently exceeding or replacing the factors responsible for the initial decline. Small, isolated populations are particularly vulnerable to catastrophic loss by an acute event. such as a chemical spill or pesticide application. However, when it comes to surviving a single disaster, widespread subpopulations of a species are far more resilient and ensure genetic survival. Hypothesizing theoretical concerns of potential factors that could affect an endangered species could predispose the scientific and political communities to jeopardizing threats. The user of recovery plans as a data source must be aware of the bias within the data set. These data should be used with the caveat that the source of information in recovery plans is not always based on scientific research and rigorous data collection. Over 58% of the information identifying species threats is based on estimates or personal communication. while only 42% is based on peer reviewed literature, academic research. or government reports. Many recovery plans were written when a species was initially listed in the 1970s or 1980s. Politics, human disturbance, and habitat demand issues evolve over a 20- to 30-year period. leaving much of the threats facing endangered species outdated and inadequate. These data are most valuable when used to facilitate reviews of Section 7 consultations and environmental impact statements, review permit applications, conduct environmental risk assessments, prioritize research needs. and identify limiting factors affecting species health. These data are also useful in identifying potential threats to species' health. Without properly identifying threats to endangered species based on sound. scientific research. there is little hope to successfully recover an endangered species.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Book chapter
Publication Subtype:
Book Chapter
Animal species endangerment: The role of environmental pollution
Year Published:
Lewis Publishers
Publisher location:
Boca Raton, FL
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
15 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Larger Work Title:
Handbook of ecotoxicology, second edition
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Last page: