A recent study published in The Conversation contends that species on earth are going extinct at least 1,000 times faster than the natural rate.
The staggering rate of extinction could be attributed to a number of factors, including the disproportionate and relentless plundering of natural resources, climate change, hunting, loss of habitats because of rapid urbanization, among others. The authors of the study point out that all these factors have never before had such a cumulative effect on the loss of earth’s biodiversity.
While the extinction of species is a natural process, the fact that it is happening at such a staggering rate is a cause for deep concern, the authors note. They draw an analogy which lays bare the stark reality of the situation and the dangers such a rapid rate of extinction would eventually cause humans.
“Imagine a disease that only killed medical professionals – it would be far more devastating for society than one which killed similar numbers of people at random.
“This non-random pattern extends to the evolutionary ‘tree-of-life.'”
According to the study, the loss of so many species at once is bound to hurt the ecosystem in ways that cannot even be predicted, more so because we have not been able to make a comprehensive list of earth’s species, or even of those who are vanishing because of the alleged damage humans are wreaking on the environment.
Among the earth’s species, animals with large bodies appear more prone to extinction, while epiphytical plants, or those who grow on other plants but not as parasites, appear most vulnerable to the rapid environmental changes.
Amphibians seem to the most badly hit, with their rate of extinction estimated at a ludicrous 45,000 times faster rate than should be natural to them.
The results of the study are consistent with a 2016 study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund, which had claimed that in the period between 1970-2012, global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles had declined by a staggering 58 percent. To put it into context, that is the loss of almost two-thirds of earth’s species in the last 40 years alone.
Of course, the monitoring the extinction of species is difficult, especially as humans are unaware of a massive part of marine wildlife, and even terrestrial wildlife, but nonetheless the authors of the study conclude that such a rapid rate of extinction is going to cause “incalculable loss” to humans not very distant in the future — unless reforms are put in place sooner rather than later.
“We may not all agree, but extinction is broadening its reach, so consensus and urgent action are needed if we hope to control it,” the authors conclude.