Environment

Researchers say Earth is entering a sixth mass extinction event

Researchers say Earth is enter...
A research team says highly conservative estimates prove we are entering a sixth mass extinction event
A research team says highly conservative estimates prove we are entering a sixth mass extinction event
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A research team says highly conservative estimates prove we are entering a sixth mass extinction event
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A research team says highly conservative estimates prove we are entering a sixth mass extinction event

While there is still much conjecture about the causes of some mass extinctions, it is generally believed that they can occur when a biosphere under long-term stress is subjected to a short-term shock. In 1982, Jack Sepkoski and David M. Rauppublished a paper identifying five mass extinction events throughout Earth's history. Now a team of researchers claims that we are entering a sixth mass extinction event, which threatens our very existence.

As ever more speciesface extinction, we lose the vital ecosystem services they provide,such as honeybee crop pollination. For its continued existence,mankind is reliant upon an untold plethora of species that maintainthe status quo. As they disappear, that existence becomesincreasingly fragile.

The paper entitled Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction, which wasco-authored by Paul Ehrlich, a Professor of Population Studies inbiology and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for theEnvironment, draws on fossil records of vertebrate species and anabundance of data from other sources, combining them to create abaseline extinction rate for periods when there was no massextinction event underway. Predicated on this baseline, theresearchers were able to estimate that the current rates ofvertebrate extinction is up to 114 times greater than that of thebaseline.

According to the Union for Conservation of Nature, at this pointroughly 41 percent of amphibian species and 26 percent of mammalspecies are in serious danger of extinction. Alarmingly, extinctionrates are now at their highest point since the Cretaceous-Paleogeneextinction event some 66 million yearsago.

The paper's authorsstress that their findings are conservative in nature, and that thereality of the situation could be much worse. While conducting thestudy, the researchers even set the baseline extinction rate at twicethe value of estimates widely used in previous analyses. Amongst the causes for theincreased extinction rates are mankind'sdestruction of animals' natural habitats, and carbon emission drivenclimate change.

According to Ehrlichand his colleagues there is still hope, but in order to avoid direconsequences, we must embark upon a comprehensive regime of wildlifeand habitat conservation. The researchers also warn that the window for change isgrowing ever slimmer.

"If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on," said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México.

The study has been made available in the onlinejournal Science Advances.

Thevideo below, courtesy of Stanford University, highlights key aspectsof the research.

Source:Stanford University

32 comments
Tony Morris
This is sobering research. No doubt in my mind (even prior to this) that humankind is destroying the planet at an alarming rate. A mere 200 odd years of "industrial humankind" has already undone much of the 3.6 billion years of evolution. (that is only 0.000006% of the "life on earth timeline) Its a pity the messenger is Paul Ehrilch - his history will be the first thing the skeptics jump on.
christopher
Technically, by definition, the moment the 5th one ended, we entered the 6th one already. Relax though, no matter how close or far off it may be, there's nothing we as a species are realistically able to accomplish to make any noticeable change to that date. WWII was the worlds largest ever human initiated event, which made no more than a momentary 2% blip to our direction.
nickyhansard
I'm sorry if I sound ignorant saying this but I take anything an environmental scientist says with a grain of sand. I'll explain my reasoning; firstly their funds are directly reliant on how bleak their predictions are and secondly it's very hard to prove or disprove their predictions until years later and by that point it's irrelevant to them personally/career wise. I'm not an expert or a scientist but I believe I have a fairly good understanding of the scientific method and they generally seem to eager to make assumptions/predictions on limited data.
The Hoff
I always ask the climate change deniers a simple question. How bad would it have to get before you believe we're in a serious situation. Maybe a major famine in in many countries and the U. S. ? Or maybe the sea level rising 10 feet? Many of them don't even think that would change their mind. I know we have the technology and the smarts to change it in time but we need leaders to lead and forget about being popular with the weak that will not listen to the scientists. Science is mostly just complicated math, and this is adding up in a hurry. What would it take for you to believe we have to do something now?
Jeffrey Melton
Do I have time to finish my beer?
tonywjones44
I do so hope Homo Sapiens is on the list.
Brian M
Barring the obvious that doomsayers will eventually be right(!). The loss of species diversity is not evidence of any such mass extinction (just yet), So what if the panda or the great predicators become extinct - it won't cause any environmental problems, maybe its even time for them to give way to a more suited successor in environmental terms. As for the loss of bees this is not related to global warming and other insects are likely to adapt to take over there role if they don't recover. Given the life cycle of insects this could happen in a relatively short period. However where we do need to take action on is the ever growing human population, deforestation etc..
watersworm
Follow the money. No funding without Armageddon horrific apocalyptic "predictions", specially about devil-Mankind, fossil fuel (I agree fossil fules ARE devilish, but, alas...), climate change or better climate chaos. All models will fail, but, fortunately, no one or few of us will be there (in 2100 or even 2050). Fear, fear fear ang guide the People where you want !
S Michael
I hope these "scientist" publish their "work" in a language other than English, like maybe Chinese, Russian, and a whole host of other countries, because we are not the problem. The big polluters are not here in the U.S. Until you convince countries like China, India, Russian and a whole host of other countries to stop polluting its a lost cause. Go preach to them.
Bob809
When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. Cree Prophecy