Rising pollution is endangering species

| 4th October 2019
Hawksbill turtle
Climate change, pollution and human actions are responsible for a staggering 318 animal extinctions to date, new research shows.


Climate change and pollution continue to rise as threats, with severe weather, changing ecosystems and rising temperatures responsible for 33 animal extinctions, while pollution is responsible for 37 extinctions to date, new data shows. 

Agriculture and aquaculture is the biggest threat to endangered species, including the fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources, the production of food and livestock farming. 

A staggering 7,522 species are currently threatened as a result of agriculture and aquaculture, 2,562 of which are critically endangered. The second biggest threat is biological resource use, which could impact 2,406 critically endangered species. 

Animal extinctions

Animal Endangerment Map collates and analyses official conservation reports to reveal the species that are currently classed as extinct, endangered and vulnerable around the world.

The research also shows how conservation efforts have changed over the past decade, showing which countries have experienced the most animal extinction to date. 

In 2019, more than 28,000 species are threatened with extinction worldwide - representing more than a quarter (27 percent) of all assessed species. The United States has experienced the most animal extinction with 237 species reported to have died out prior to 2018, followed by French Polynesia with 59 extinctions, Mauritius with 44 and Australia with 40. 

Every 22 known species of ape are now endangered, and seven primate species are at a particularly high risk of extinction as a result of deforestation, hunting and agriculture. This includes the Roloway monkeys found in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana who have a remaining population size of just 2,000. 

And it’s not just animal extinctions - the US also claimed the highest number of endangered species in 2018 with 1,046, representing a 9.87 percent increase over the past decade. This figure has since risen to 1,064 in 2019, showing a 1.72 percent increase over the past year alone. 

Predicted decline

69 percent of the 494 critically endangered species in the US are predicted to continue to decline in the future, with 48 species expected to suffer as a result of wastewater, industrial and agricultural effluents, rubbish, pollutants and excess energy pollution. This list consists of one plant and 47 animal species, including eight species of bumblebee. 

Australia also experiences a high level of endangerment, with 932 at-risk species reported in 2018, 52 percent of which are also predicted to decline.

Within this number, the list of endangered animals who are predicted to be affected by climate change includes the hawksbill turtle, which has a current estimated population of between 20,000 and 23,000 nesting females. 

With recent research showing that reptiles are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of plastic pollution and over one million marine animals reportedly killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean, it’s no surprise that the hawksbill turtle population is declining. Australia

But the US isn’t the only country to have experienced a significant rise in the number of endangered and extinct species over the past decade. Saint Martin has seen a 1,150 percent rise in endangerment since 2008, growing from 4 at-risk species to 50. 

In fact, just four countries have seen a decline (-3 percent or more) in animal endangerment and extinction over the past decade - Uganda, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands, the Falkland Islands, and Holy See. 

This Article 

This article is based on a press release from the Animal Endangerment Map project. 

To find out which countries have seen the most significant rise in endangerment over the past ten years and to see some of the most threatened species in each location, visit the Animal Endangerment Map here. 

Image: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Flickr

More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here