Environment

Study finds sixth mass extinction accelerating at unprecedented rate

Study finds sixth mass extinct...
A new study has found endangered vertebrates around the world, such as Costa Rica's harlequin frog, are disappearing at unprecedented rates
A new study has found endangered vertebrates around the world, such as Costa Rica's harlequin frog, are disappearing at unprecedented rates
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A new study has found endangered vertebrates around the world, such as Costa Rica's harlequin frog, are disappearing at unprecedented rates
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A new study has found endangered vertebrates around the world, such as Costa Rica's harlequin frog, are disappearing at unprecedented rates

Back in 2015, a team of scientists led by Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich published a study claiming we were entering a sixth mass extinction event, triggered by the rapid decline in biodiversity. Researchers have now provided an update in the form of a new study that has found the rate of extinctions is increasing at an unprecedented rate, with the scientists fearful it could kick off a domino effect that poses a real threat to human existence.

The 2015 paper outlined a new kind of mass extinction event in addition to the five identified to have previously wiped out large swathes of life on Earth. Where asteroid impacts and abrupt changes to carbon cycles have been the driving factors behind these historical events, the scientists warned that our unsustainable relationship with the natural world was creating a new kind of danger.

Humankind relies heavily on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems to survive and flourish, whether that’s through the bees that pollinate our crops, marine species that keep the oceans healthy and a dependable source of food or the ever-expanding array of creatures that prove the source of life-saving medicines. As these species disappear due to habitat destruction, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change, so too do essential parts of a delicate system we depend on for our well-being.

“When humanity exterminates populations and species of other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,” says Ehrlich.“The conservation of endangered species should be elevated to a national and global emergency for governments and institutions, equal to climate disruption to which it is linked.”

Ehrlich and the international team of researchers behind the new study examined the distribution of critically endangered species around the globe, finding that 515 of them, 1.7 percent of the total the team analyzed, are on the brink of extinction and are likely to disappear in the next two decades. The team estimated that around the same number went extinct across the entire 20th century.

“What we do to deal with the current extinction crisis in the next two decades will define the fate of millions of species,” says study lead author Gerardo Ceballos, a senior researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute of Ecology. “We are facing our final opportunity to ensure that the many services nature provides us do not get irretrievably sabotaged.”

The 515 species considered to be on the brink of extinction had fewer than 1,000 individuals left, with around half of those having less than 250. The majority of these species inhabit tropical and subtropical areas susceptible to human impacts, with the scientists particularly concerned about a domino effect. This refers to a situation where the extinction of one species impacts other species that rely on it for survival, thereby also placing them at risk of extinction as part of a destructive chain reaction.

The researchers propose a number of ways in which we can address the problem, starting with a global ban on the trade of wild species. The study also highlights species and regions where conservation resources can be best directed, which in turn can highlight which factors are most impactful in driving these accelerating extinction rates.

“The links between human health and wellbeing, and the health of our planet are well known,” says Dr Rohan Clarke, a lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at Australia’s Monash University who wasn't involved in the study. “This research highlights the fragility of the Earth’s support systems and the urgent need to act. The call for the conservation of endangered species to be elevated to a national and global emergency is both warranted and urgent.”

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, while the video below provides an overview of the research.

Extinction rate is accelerating, according to researchers

Source: Stanford University

10 comments
Nelson Hyde Chick
If only in the sixties we listened to people like the Ehrlichs, Rachel Carson, Club of Rome and Norman Borlaug who were all warning us about the dangers of overpopulation, and that was when there were only three billion of us; if we headed their advice and humanity was currently approaching four billion instead of eight, climate change would be distant blip on our radar, the Gulf Spill, fracking and the development of Canada’s tar sands would not have happened because we would not be that hard up for oil yet, and the word Anthropocene would not have been coined to label mankind driving all other life to extinction. Humanity is a cancer on this planet.
Signguy
Small wonder with all the crap man puts in the water, earth, and atmosphere. Every form of disease is rising exponentially because of our pollutions.
alexD
I just want to know when cockroaches and mosquitos will be gone !
aksdad
Any study that posits that we're in the midst of a "sixth mass extinction" is a joke. Comparing the fate of 515 species on the brink of extinction to REAL mass extinctions where tens of thousands of species were wiped out is the worst kind of hyperbole. Of course the authors don't mention that governments and international organizations recognized the threat to these species decades ago and have been working to save them. Unfortunately it's a difficult challenge for various reasons that have nothing at all to do with Western countries. We've been identifying and protecting endangered species and their habitat and rehabilitating them in our countries. It's generally poor countries where the problem is most pronounced and there's not much we can do about it.
Karmudjun
Yeah - it is just a joke! What a relief. When so many populations are dwindling and biodiversity is disappearing, we can just say it is all a joke and the time it takes for "mother nature" to provide for our grandchildren or many generations from our grandchildren - I wonder if our progeny will be laughing? Eh Eksdad?
Cryptonoetic
Karmudjun is right. The only viable option is to extinct the humans.
ljaques
Ask how much Julian Simon trusts the research that Paul Ehrlilch publishes. (He won $1k from Paul, the Population Bomb chicken little.) As the world trends from Ice Age to Warm Age, we'll lose species. We always have and always will. Evolution determines which stick around and which die out. Mother Nature isn't worried, nor should man be. We're very clever beasties, man. When Mother Nature sends us heat, we grow more food. When we realize our idiocy and pollution, we clean it up. Life goes on.
Catweazle
Species are dying out and new ones are replacing them all the time, it is estimated that 99.9% of all species that have ever existed have become extinct. There are bacteria discovered in drill core samples from a kilometer down, and only recently we discovered a complete new variety of life form at the bottom of the deep ocean living off the sulphur and heat from the thermal vents. Good luck wiping that lot out.
Wolf0579
Plus the Earth's magnetic field is failing fast in the process of polarity reversal, our star may be getting ready to go mini-nova, as the polarity of the galactic current sheet is about to change, and Trump is still Traitor in Chief.
Wolf0579
Humans are not a cancer on the earth. We're more like a mild skin infection. We are not going to be able to really hurt the planet in any way for a couple thousand years. Let's put away the melodrama. We just don't have the stomach to deal with our own undesirables, and as a result, our population has exploded, and we still refuse to do anything about it, most because of a vocal minority that engages in massive self-delusion.