Scientists from Stanford, Princeton, and UC Berkeley have published a report in which they claim Earth has entered a new period of extinction. This would be the 6th mass extinction period of our planet.
Perhaps most noteworthy of the report is the conservative approach to the study the lead authors claim to have taken. Even with the conservative analysis, the numbers are astonishing. In the last century, the Earth has seen a much more vast number of vertebrates become extinct than would have without human influence. To be precise, the rate of vertebrates’ disappearance from the planet has been 114 times greater in the last century than it would have been sans the destructive tendencies and actions of humans.
The scientists note over 400 vertebrates have experienced extinction since 1900, with the greatest numbers belonging to amphibian species at 146 and fish at 158 species lost. Mammals (69 species lost), birds (80), and reptiles (24) were on the lower end of the number of species lost, but still had staggering numbers for such a short period of time.
In the report, Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University called the species on the path toward extinction the “walking dead,” but it is not just the animal species that these researchers are worried about.
The report is not just a cause for concern for the animal and nature lovers among us. The scientists would say that every individual on the planet should be worried and interested in this report. Speaking about this new period of extinction, one of the lead authors, Dr. Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, says in the published report, “If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on.” It would only take about three generations for humans to feel significant effects of this sixth period of extinction.
What would expedite the destruction of the human population would be the amount of immense stress on certain necessary ecosystems. For example, the bee population, especially essential for crop pollination, could be lost, which would further stress the production of food crops essential to feeding an increasingly overpopulated planet. The loss of large herbivores could create empty landscapes.
The authors state our window for preventing the numerous effects of this continued pace of extinction is “rapidly closing.” But there is still a window. Efforts would need to be “greatly intensified…to conserve already threatened species and to alleviate pressures on their habitats.” When we realize that these pressures on species include combating rapid habitat loss and climate change, we see preventing this phase of extinction will be no small feat. Rapid action is necessary and humans need to heed this call to action.
(Photo courtesy of Geek Calendar)