There are plants and animals all over the world, each in their own habitat. Over time thay have found a balance with other plants and animals in their ecosystem or they will begin to disappear - go extinct. Scientists keep track of many plants and animals species and notice when they begin to disappear and often try to protect them.
A plant or animal species that is disappearing is listed under one of two groups – endangered or threatened.
An “endangered species” is a plant or animal species that is in danger of going extinct throughout all or most of where it lives – its range.
When a plant or animal species is almost endangered, it is called a “threatened species”. This means the plant or animal is likely to become endangered soon throughout all or most of its range.
After a plant or animal is listed as endangered or threatened on the "Federal list" it can then be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
This protection is the repsonsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-Fisheries.
A species is added to the Endangered Species List when its survival is endangered or threatened by a few important things done my humans or nature. Some things that cause animals (or plants) to become endangered or threatened are loss of habitat, over hunting (or over collecting) by man or predators, or disease.
To find out about which animals or plants are endangered or threatened, how it happened, and what is being done to protect them, check out some of the topics below.
NGSS Life Science Profession K-12
K-2 Plants and animals can change their local environment.
3-5 Living things can affect the physical characteristics of their environment.
6-8 The fossil record documents the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of many life forms and their environments through Earth’s history. The fossil record and comparisons of anatomical similarities between organisms enables the inference of lines of evolutionary descent. Changes in biodiversity can influence humans’ resources and ecosystem services they rely on. [Content found in LS4.A and LS4.D]
9-12 The biosphere and Earth’s other systems have many interconnections that cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and life on it.
ESS3.A Natural resources
K-2 Living things need water, air, and resources from the land, and they live in places that have the things they need. Humans use natural resources for everything they do.
3-5 Energy and fuels humans use are derived from natural sources and their use affects the environment. Some resources are renewable over time, others are not.
6-8 Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for different resources, many of which are limited or not renewable. Resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.
9-12 Resource availability has guided the development of human society and use of natural resources has associated costs, risks, and benefits.
ESS3.C Human impacts on Earth systems
K-2 Things people do can affect the environment but they can make choices to reduce their impacts.
3-5 Societal activities have had major effects on the land,ocean, atmosphere,and even outer space. Societal activities can also help protect Earth’s resources and environments.
6-8 Human activities have altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging it, although changes to environments can
have different impacts for different living things. Activities and technologies can be engineered to reduce people’s impacts on Earth.
9-12 Sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources, including the development of technologies.
LS2.C Ecosystem dynamics, functioning, and resilience
3-6 When the environment changes some organisms survive and reproduce, some move to new locations, some move into the transformed environment, and some die.
6-8 Ecosystem characteristics vary over time. Disruptions to any part of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all of its populations. The completeness or integrity of an ecosystem’s biodiversity is often used as a measure of its health.
9-12 If a biological or physical disturbance to an ecosystem occurs, including one induced by human activity, the ecosystem may return to its more or less original state or become a very different ecosystem, depending on the complex set of interactions within the ecosystem.