Not to alarm you, dear reader, but we are in the midst of a mass extinction event. The global rate of extinction is rapidly accelerating, posing a threat to global biodiversity and human health. What’s more, entire populations of species are being lost and the remaining populations are shrinking. A recent report suggests that over 500 terrestrial vertebrate species (which excludes fish, invertebrate, and plant species) will go extinct within the next decade unless we change our practices.
Traditional analyses quantifying biodiversity loss are done by comparing rates of extinctions over time. By measuring vertebrate extinctions in the fossil record over the last two million years, scientists have been able to determine a baseline extinction rate (about 2 out of ever 10,000 species every 100 years). Conservatively, over the last century, 200 terrestrial vertebrate species have gone extinct (some reports say upwards of 500). Under normal conditions, 200 extinctions would take over ten centuries (10,000 years) to disappear. However, by focusing only on extinctions, scientists have, until recently, failed to perceive the increase of species vulnerable to extinction.
By analyzing 27,600 terrestrial vertebrate species (such as mammals, birds, and reptiles), researchers found that 32% of the studied vertebrate species are decreasing, including species listed as ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Moreover, with a sample of 177 well-studied mammals, scientists found that all 177 species have lost at least 30% of their traditional geographic range, and 40% of the studied species have lost 80% of their population.
So perhaps I should restate myself, dear reader: Please be alarmed. Contraction of species population range and size can cause a cascade of negative ramifications leading to ecosystem disruption and further extinctions. Over-exploitation, agriculture, and development have been the primary culprits in the dramatic loss of biodiversity, which, when compounded by the effects of climate change, stand to wreak further havoc. Moreover, these studies focus only on terrestrial vertebrates and offer no comment on the risk to marine, invertebrate, fungi, and plant species. We rely on our environment for agriculture, renewable resources, and recreation, and allowing the ongoing biological annihilation to continue will have profound ecological, social, and economic consequences.
Managing correspondent: Olivia Foster Rhoades
Read the original news story here:
Mass Extinctions Are Accelerating, Scientists Report, New York Times
Read the original scientific articles here:
- Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines
- Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction
- Biodiversity: The ravages of guns, nets, and bulldozers
- Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds
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