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Saving My Revised GRE Issue GRE Issue(Manuscript under Review) Copy Right 2012 by James Jiang.

g. All Rights Reserved Authorized and printed at Toronto, Canada, June 2012

Supplementary Ref


Saving Endangered Species

Since life began on this planet, countless species have come and gone, rendered extinct by naturally changing physical and biological conditions. Since extinction is part of the natural order, and if many other species remain, some people ask: Why save endangered species? What makes these animals and plants so special that money and effort should be spent to preserve and recover them? While extinction does occur naturally, unfortunately the accelerating decline of our wild animals and plants is less and less a result of natural events. Most dangers to wildlife are from habitat loss and degradation, environmental pollution, the introduction of exotic (non-native) organisms, and overexploitation; all generally a direct result of human activities. While scientists have classified approximately 1.7 million organisms, many millions of additional species remain to be described by biologists. All of these living creatures, including ourselves, are part of a complex, delicately balanced network of life. Though there is much that we do not know about how ecosystems and biological communities function, we do now that no creature exists in isolation. Therefore, the removal of a single species can conceivably set off a chain reaction affecting many others. The full significance of the extinction of a species is seldom immediately apparent and the long-term impacts are difficult to predict. Every species contains a unique storehouse of genetic material that has evolved over eons of time. Once lost, this cannot be retrieved or duplicated. Scientists have only partially investigated about 2 percent of the more than 250,000 known plant species for possible medicinal values. The chemical secrets of most species have yet to be unraveled for potential benefits to mankind.

No matter how small or obscure a species, it could one day be of direct help to all of us. A fungus that originally gave us the anti-bacterial medicines penicillin and cyclosporine A has dramatically increased the success of organ transplant operations. The compound taxol was first isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew, a small tree of Americas old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Taxol has been found to be an effective treatment for ovarian, breast, and other types of cancer. Nearly 40 percent of all medical prescriptions dispensed annually in the United States are derived from nature or synthesized to mimic naturally occurring chemical compounds. It is sobering when one realizes that with the extinction of any species we may be throwing away the key that could unlock effective treatments to save and prolong healthy lives. Many seemingly insignificant forms of life are beginning to show important benefits to agriculture that in many cases they are a safe, effective, and less expensive alternative to synthetic chemicals. Some farmers are using insects and other animals to compete with or prey on certain crop pests, as well as using plants containing natural toxic compounds that repel harmful insects. The Lake Placid mint, an endangered species known only from central Florida, may have benefits to crop production because it produces a potent chemical that repels insects, including ants. Another endangered species, the running buffalo clover, is being screened as a possible forage crop because of its high protein content and perennial nature. Industry is also increasingly making use of wild plants. Two species in particular that show potential are the jojoba and the guayule. The jojoba produces and oil with many unique properties that have application to a variety of industrial processes. In the past, the only comparable oil

Saving My Revised GRE Issue GRE Issue(Manuscript under Review) Copy Right 2012 by James Jiang. All Rights Reserved Authorized and printed at Toronto, Canada, June 2012

was derived from the sperm whale, but over-harvesting brought this great marine mammal to the brink of extinction. The guayule is a shrub containing high amounts of natural rubber, as well as a resin rich in other valuable substances. Both plants grow in the deserts of the southwestern United States, giving economic value to lands not suitable for other agricultural purposes, and they could provide domestic sources of products that would otherwise have to be imported. Many individual species are uniquely important as indicators of environmental quality. The rapid decline in bald eagles and peregrine falcons in the mid-20th century was a dramatic warning of the dangers of DDTa strong, once widely used pesticide that accumulates in body tissues. (It hampered fertility and egg-hatching success in these species.) In another example, lichens and certain plants like the eastern white pine are good indicators of excess ozone, sulfur dioxide, and other air pollutants. Species like these can alert us to the effects of some contaminants before more damage is done. Freshwater mussels are also very effective environmental indicators. The eastern United States boasts the richest diversity of freshwater mussels in the world. These animals are filter-feeders, drawing in water and straining out food particles. Their method of feeding helps to keep our waters clean. But because mussels filter material from the water, they are often the first animals to be affected by water pollution. They tend to accumulate whatever toxins, such as chemicals in agricultural and industrial runoff, are present in their habitat. Too much pollution can eliminate the mussels. Other threats to mussel populations include siltation, the introduction of competing nonnative mussels, stream channelization and dredging, and the impoundment of free-flowing streams and rivers. Today, most native freshwater mussel species are considered to be endangered, threatened, or of special concern Aside from these and other reasons to save species, moral considerations are often identified as a basis for action. If imperiled plants and animals lack a known benefit to mankind, should we care if they disappear? If a species evolves over millennia or is created by divine intent, do we have a

right to cause its extinction? Would our descendants forgive us for exterminating a unique form of life? Such questions are not exclusive to scientists or philosophers. Many people believe that every creature has an intrinsic value. The loss of plant and animal species, they say, is not only shortsighted but wrong, especially since an extinct species can never be replaced. Eliminating entire species has been compared to ripping pages out of books that have not yet been read. We are accustomed to a rich diversity in nature. This diversity has provided inspiration for countless writers and artists, and all others who treasure variety in the natural world. We humans have always been a part of nature. We evolved in wilderness among plants and animals that have existed for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the natural systems we depend on are at risk, and plants and animals worldwide are disappearing. Most of us realize that we are completely dependent on the resources of the earth for survival. Natural systems provide our air, water, soil, and food, and our technology merely rearranges naturally occurring materials. Our awareness of our interrelatedness to natural systems has been heightened by ecological descriptions of the complex interactions between physical and biological elements of the biosphere. The evolutionary perspective of Homo sapiens as a transient step in the primate line, a species like any other, has also forced us to see ourselves as part of the natural order. It is an unavoidable fact that humans as a species behave according to biological principles in the environment. We compete with other species for space and resources, and human presence in the environment too often forces poorer competitors to extinction. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the most popular and effective environmental laws ever enacted. It is a commitment by the American people to work together to protect and restore those species that are most at risk of extinction. The ESA provides common sense and balanced solutions for government agencies, landowners, and concerned citizens to protect and restore endangered species and their habitat. It is based on three key elementslisting species as threatened or endangered, designating habitat essential for

Saving My Revised GRE Issue GRE Issue(Manuscript under Review) Copy Right 2012 by James Jiang. All Rights Reserved Authorized and printed at Toronto, Canada, June 2012

their survival and recovery, and ultimately restoring healthy populations of the species so

they can be removed from the list.