Sometimes species of animals and plants slip away in the middle of the night or day, never to be seen again. The Holocene extinction is not a new occurrence; it is the widespread, ongoing disappearance of plants and animals of every species from around 10,000 B.C. until now. Extinction is a common enough event in nature due to climate changes, asteroids, volcanic eruptions and the like, but the earth is experiencing the worst extinction rates since the dinosaurs died. Scientists report that dozens of species are going extinct every day. The cause faulted? Humanity. Humans are widening the damage of the Holocene extinction today, and much of this calamity occurs in rainforests.
Plants and animals in rainforests find themselves facing nonexistence because their homes are endangered. The amount of tropical rainforests destroyed each year covers roughly the size of New York State. Deforestation, clearing forests on a large-scale, is the main reason species are vanishing in these environments. At the current rate of deforestation, the world’s rainforests could disappear completely in a hundred years. Many different factors play into why people cut down forests, but the main reason is money and agriculture. Farmers clear land in order to provide a greater grazing area for their animals or planting crops. Logging operations also chop countless trees in order to provide the world with paper products, and many others are felled to create room for population growth. Hunters also kill endangered or threatened animals for their tasty meat, lovely feathers, or warm furs, and this, coupled with deforestation, raises the Holocene extinction calamity in rainforests. Both deforestation and hunting add to the overall Holocene extinction rate in the world, since these environments are so unique and needed.
Although these tropical forests comprise only 6 percent of the earth’s surface, their value cannot be underestimated. They help to stabilize and control the world’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air. They also possess thousands of different kinds of species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, as well as varying kinds of medicine. Rainforests, much like every other type of ecosystem, consists of tight strands between each species. If one strand is cut and a species dies, then another is likely to follow, and the environment could collapse. If an ecosystem contains a diverse array of species, then it will thrive and live longer.
The Holocene extinction poses a grave threat and calamity to rainforests because as humans continue to encroach on these fragile ecosystems, more groups of plants and animals die, and the forests slowly fade away, along with all of their benefits. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the organization that keeps the record of potentially extinct creatures, lists hundreds of animals in the rainforest in different categories: critically endangered, endangered, threatened, near-threatened, and vulnerable. The critically endangered species are those closest to the precipice of extinction. There might be endangered species that scientists have not uncovered yet, or species that no longer exist that they had no knowledge of. Some animals in rainforests that are endangered today that scientists do know about include lemurs, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, rhinoceroses, Asian elephants, and many types of amphibians, which have the largest rate of endangerment due to a heightened sensitivity to the environment. Only recently have plants suffered greatly in the Holocene extinction, but many are endangered in rainforests as well as animals.
Most disappearances of species due to the Holocene extinction go unnoticed, but it is estimated that 140,000 species per year may be the present rate. Both human-made factors and climate change contribute to extinction around the world, and due to the diversity and fragility of rainforests, these treasure-filled environments will feel the full force of the loss of life, making Holocene extinction a true and rising calamity.
Editorial by Rachel Fike