A study done by a joint US-Mexican team of researchers seems to suggest that the Earth may be headed to its sixth mass extinction period due to human impact over the environment, which sees species disappearing at a rate 114 times faster than normal. The study’s finds were published Thursday in the Science Advances journal
This would be sixth such event in Earth’s history and the first since the disappearance of dinosaurs after a massive disaster 65 million years ago. The main argument in predicting the event is the abnormally high rate of extinction in species, with over 400 vertebrates having disappeared since 1900 alone, and the effects on human populations could possibly become visible in only three generations, whilst nature would take millions of years to recover.
Out of the over 400 species which have disappeared since the start of the the 20th century, 69 of them were mammals, 24 reptile, 80 were bird species and more than 300 were amphibious or fish. Things are becoming worse as more than a quarter of all mammals and 41 percent of amphibians are threatened with extinction nowadays.
“Without any significant doubt … we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event. There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead. We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on” said study lead researcher Prof. Paul Elrich.
The scientists have warned in the study that the high rate of extinction in species greatly disturbs the ecosystem, which in turn will have serious effects on human populations. For example, crop pollination by bees could be one benefit lost by our great-great-grandchildren.
They have also pointed out that their research and calculations are also based on a highly conservative method which was used to calculate a normal rate of extinction per species between mass extinction periods, pointing it out to be at two mammals per every 10,000 species each century. However, if applied to species which have disappeared over the last century, this rate would have seen the vast majority of them survive for periods between 800 and 10,000 years.
The study authors did say that avoiding such a dramatic event was still possible, but it would require massive and intense efforts to conserve species which are already threatened and curb the rapidly rising extinction rate. Limiting habitat loss, unnecessary exploitation and climate change are some of the measures which could help in this regard.
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