Goodbye elephant, jaguar, cheetah, and rhino. The Earth is amid its sixth extinction and a new study has claimed that in three lifetimes, so much biodiversity will be lost that it’ll take the planet millions of years to recover.
The last mass extinction took place 65 million years ago: the dinosaurs.
The picture emerging from a new study is indeed grim. Its authors suggest that vertebrates are dying 114 times faster than if humans weren’t in the picture, Live Science reported. Applied into the future, that rate translates into the loss of species across the board — 69 mammals, 80 birds, 24 reptiles, 146 amphibians, and 158 fish.
The numbers suggest 1,508 vertebrates could disappear in another 100 years.
That may not seem like a lot, but researcher Gerardo Ceballos pointed out that “Every time we lose a species, we’re eroding the possibilities of Earth to provide us with environmental services.”
And the sixth extinction is also happening way too fast. Over the past 100 years, only nine vertebrates should have gone extinct based on past rates, but that number in reality is nearly 500.
According to NBC News, human activity is firmly to blame for the sixth extinction. We’re responsible, after all, for industrialization and deforestation. Our activity on Earth has led to pollution, loss of habitat, invasive species, climate change, and ocean acidification.
“Our activities are causing a massive loss of species that has no precedent in the history of humanity and few precedents in the history of life on Earth.”
Researchers arrived at this alarming figure and prediction of the sixth extinction by comparing rates of loss in the past to current rates.
Species go extinct naturally, without human involvement. Before we came along, the animal kingdom underwent five total extinctions — or about two per 10,000 vertebrates every 100 years.
But the modern rate is much higher and based on a list of threatened and endangered species maintained and monitored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Scientists compiled both highly conservative and conservative figures.
But at least one scientist thinks the numbers are too bleak, since they assume current conditions will persist, which they likely will not. Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg concurred with the study’s conclusion that humanity is to blame for the sixth extinction and is bringing it on more rapidly than it would arrive naturally, but had more faith in humanity.
“These extinction rates are not likely to persist for many centuries, if even one century, as richer countries can afford to and do reforest, while they also can afford to embark on ever more serious conservation.”
The power of humanity’s intervention to reverse this sixth extinction was the one silver lining in the new study.
“Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require 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,” the study claimed.
[Photo Courtesy Brent Stirton/Getty Images]