Study Shows Abundance of US Species
Mar. 16, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) _ America has nearly double the number of native species of plants and animals than previously thought, but as many as a third of them are at risk of being lost, a new study says.
The study, showing an abundance of more than 200,000 native species in the United States, was released Thursday by scientists at the Nature Conservancy and the Association for Biodiversity Information.
The findings were based on a review of 25 years of information compiled, in many cases, by state agencies as part of natural heritage programs. It is the first time an attempt has been made to compile the state databases into one report.
``The good news is Americans enjoy an incredibly rich natural heritage,'' said Bruce A. Stein, the study's lead author.
He said the native species include rare fish surviving in desert oases, to the world's tallest trees, the California redwoods, to the honeycreepers, colorful birds found in Hawaii.
``The bad news,'' Stein continued, ``is that Americans risk losing much of this earth if current trends continue.''
The findings, in a book titled ``Precious Heritage: the Status of Biodiversity in the United States,'' include:
_That as many as a third of the nation's species are at risk of becoming extinct.
_At least 500 species have disappeared, with the single biggest threat to survival being lost habitat.
_The United States has a broader variety of large-scale ecosystems such at tundra and prairie than any other country in the world.
The Nature Conservancy is a private conservation group, which for 50 years has been committed to protecting America's natural riches from desert lands to wetlands.
The Association of Biodiversity Information is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information about the world's plants, animals and ecosystems in the United States, Canada and Latin America.
On the Net:
Nature Conservancy http://www.tnc.org
Association for Biodiversity Information http://www.abi.org