Five ash tree species are now listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species as a bat species from Australia goes extinct. Learn the latest updates on the IUCN's Red List, as one species says goodbye and another lives for another day.
Ash Trees On The Brink Of Extinction
Ash trees are some of North America's most prominent and valuable tree species. They are essential to the plant communities in the United States; are a key part of American forests; and provide habitat for many birds, squirrels, insects, and pollinating species such as butterflies.
Unfortunately, the latest update on the IUCN's Red List shows that five out of the six most prominent ash tree species in North America are already Critically Endangered. In fact, they are already said to be on the verge of extinction. Three of which, the black, green, and white ash, are the most dominant ash tree species. If white ash sounds familiar, it is because it is a popular and valuable timber in North America used to make baseball bats, hockey sticks, and furniture.
The culprit behind the dwindling ash tree population is the prevalence of the Emerald ash borer beetle species which bore and feed on ash trees. The beetle species was introduced in Michigan in the late 1990s via infected pallets from northeast China and was discovered as the reason for the 2002 ash tree mortality in Michigan and Ontario. The invasive species has since continued to spread throughout North America because of warming temperatures in the region despite efforts to thwart the population.
Madagascan Bugs Threatened
Almost 40 percent of Madagascan pygmy grasshopper species are already threatened, seven of which are already Critically Endangered including the Rumplestiltskin Pygmy grasshopper. Similarly, more than 40 percent of Madagascan millipedes are also facing the threat of extinction, with 27 of the 145 endemic species already in the Critically Endangered category.
In both cases, the main causes of the population decline are deforestation and mining projects in the region.
Five Antelope Species Population Decline
Five African antelope species which were previously under the Least Concern category are now of concern as their populations continue to dwindle. The Giant Eland, the world's largest antelope species, has moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable, while the Southern Lechwe and Grey Rhebok have become Near Threatened. The Heuglin's Gazelle and the Mountain Reedbuck are also now species of concern as they are now on the "Endangered" category.
Main reasons for the population decline among antelopes are poaching, habitat loss as human populations continue to grow, and disturbances due to being in competition with livestock and cattle herders. Increased frequency and periods of drought due to climate change are also contributing factors to the decline.
Goodbye To The Christmas Island Pipistrelle
Perhaps the most unfortunate news in the IUCN update is regarding the Christmas Island Pipistrelle, which is now officially considered Extinct. The Christmas Island Pipistrelle, endemic to Christmas Island in Australia, was previously widespread and common on the island during the 1980s. However, their population took a rapid nosedive so much so that in January 2009, there were only between four and 20 bats. By August of the same year, only one was left.
Despite years of scouring the island for any other survivors of the species, no more were found since. The reasons behind the extinction is still unknown, though predation, the abundance of the invasive Yellow Crazy Ant species on the island, or diseases are possible causes
Cause For Hope
Despite the grim news regarding these species, the latest IUCN update also shared some good news as the snow leopard has moved from Endangered to Vulnerable. This still isn't an ideal category, but it shows that conservation efforts to prevent poaching and habitat loss, as well as awareness programs are working. However, their populations are still in decline due to poaching and illegal trade, habitat loss, and competition with livestock.
Still, there is hope as efforts are continuously being made to save the animals.