Near the end of 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed 21 species from the Endangered Species Act because they have become extinct. What causes the extinction of plant and animal species?
Many factors lead to extinctions. Dr. Hugh Ross says the fossil record indicates that half of the mammal species that existed at the time of Adam and Eve are now extinct. Human activities that can endanger species include habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, and introduction of diseases. Of course, animals can endanger people in various ways, including introducing diseases.
Humans have endangered plant species by introducing invasive plants. Plants used for decorative purposes can become invasive. Examples are English holly and the tree of heaven. Some plants that have become invasive were introduced to serve a purpose, such as controlling erosion. An example is the kudzu plant.
At other times, humans have caused extinction by killing large numbers of a species such as the passenger pigeon. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the dodo bird became extinct within less than a century of its discovery. Humans caused the extinction of the great auk by foolish vandalism. Today, poachers are endangering the rhinoceros by killing them for no good reason. By contrast, human efforts rescued the California condor after it became extinct in the wild.
Woolly mammoths existed alongside early humans, and some scientists say they were essential for the survival of humans in some areas. People used them for food and their skins for protection from the elements. Their bones became tools, building materials, and even musical instruments. These large animals also kept plant vegetation under control while spreading their seeds. We can not always determine the cause of the extinction of plant and animal species, and that is the case with woolly mammoths.
The extinction of the dinosaurs occurred before humans were on the scene. That is good because humans and dinosaurs could not coexist on the land or at the same atmospheric oxygen level. God used them to prepare Earth for humans, and He orchestrated their extinction before He placed Adam and Eve in the garden.
As we look at the extinction of plant and animal species, we learn some essential facts. From the beginning, God had a plan for life as He prepared this planet for us to be here. He gave the first humans the responsibility to take care of the Earth, but we have not done a very good job. Finally, God is still giving us a chance to do better, and we have had some successes. Serving God involves serving others and caring for what God has given us for human flourishing. We can only do that when we submit to His plan for our lives.
— Roland Earnst © 2024
References: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross, page 74.