Sixth greatest extinction event in the history of our planet is underway.
According to a new scientific research study published yesterday in the peer reviewed journal Science Advances, the sixth greatest extinction event in the history of our planet is underway. The study, which is titled, Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction, was conducted by researchers at Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley. They warn that there is “no significant doubt” that animals are disappearing about 100 times faster than they used to and they conclude that humans could be among the first victims of the next extinction event.
To reach an evidence-based conclusion, they had to determine the “natural rates of species disappearance before human activity dominated” and compare it to the current rate of extinction.
The analysis was based on documented extinctions of vertebrates, or animals with internal skeletons such as frogs, reptiles and tigers, from fossil records and other historical data.
The modern rate of species loss was compared to the “natural rates of species disappearance before human activity dominated”.
It can be difficult to estimate this rate, also known as the background rate, since humans do not know exactly what happened throughout the course of Earth’s 4.5 billion year history.
For the study, researchers used a past extinction rate that was twice as high as widely-used estimates.
If the past rate was two mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years then the “average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than it would be without human activity, even when relying on the most conservative estimates of species extinction,” the study said.
“We emphasise that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis because our aim was to place a realistic lower bound on humanity’s impact on biodiversity.”
They identified the principal causes of the ongoing extinction event as a combination of the effects of climate change, pollution and deforestation. Human activity is driving the extinction event. Approximately 41% of all amphibian species and 26% or a quarter of all mammals are threatened with extinction. There has been a 52% decline in vertebrate populations over the last 40 years.
In case anyone missed the news in school, we are mammals.
The authors of the study called for “rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already-threatened species, and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, over-exploitation for economic gain and climate change.”
For more information, including a list of the 10 most endangered species with photographs and a list of the previous major extinction events, please go here.