A newly released on Monday warns that Earth is in a period of ‘biological annihilation’ as it is most likely heading towards a sixth mass extinction event. One that may be just as severe as its 66 million years old precursor, which saw the disappearance of dinosaurs.
This latest research on the fauna of Earth was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For it, the study team mapped the ranges of nearly half of all the known terrestrial vertebrate species. Namely, it included 27,600 species of amphibians, mammals, birds, and reptiles.
It also studied population losses by analyzing samples of 177 well-studied mammal species for in between 1990 to 2015. This new analysis tried to go beyond species extinction and also study demographic trends and losses.
On-Going Biological Annihilation, Not Just a Prelude to Mass Extinction
Analysis results claim that over 30 percent of the vertebrate species returned declining numbers in both population size and range. Out of the 177 mammals, for which the research had detailed data, all of them showed significant decreases in both areas.
All lost around 30 percent or even more, of their geographic ranges. More than 40 percent of the respective mammals also lost over 80 percent of their ranges.
Reports show that the tropical regions are the most affected, as they present the highest number of decreasing species. A map generated by the study suggests that about 50 percent of all the animal individuals that once lived here on Earth are now gone. The same applies for billions of animal populations.
“This is the case of a biological annihilation occurring globally, even if the species these populations belong to are still present somewhere on Earth,” stated Rodolfo Dirzo, a study co-author and Bing Professor in Environmental Sciences.
The study team also named this a “massive erosion” of the “greatest biological diversity” in the history of our planet. By pointing out the significant population losses, the researchers are hoping to underline the fact that action must be taken against this.
They are hoping to curb this trend by slowing or completely discarding some of the underlying drivers of this biological annihilation. Namely, the scientists are hoping to put a stop to overconsumption and human overpopulation. They are also pointing out society’s belief in a “fictional” idea. That a ‘finite’ planet can ensure ‘perpetual growth’.
The team also considers that this is just a “prelude” to the sixth mass extinction. One that could lead to a decline of the natural systems that “make civilization possible”.
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