Welcome to the Sixth Mass Extinction in Earth’s History

In a recent report published in open-access journal Science Advances, scientists have stated that our planet is undergoing the sixth mass extinction in its history, and it’s one brought on entirely by mankind. The scientists’ study compared animal extinction rates from 1900 until today to rates from “background” periods- sections of time during which mass extinction was not taking place. They found the extinction rate from this time period to be much higher than the expected “background rate,” more in line with the five previous mass extinction events. Thus, scientists have classified the deeply troubling trend as Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

Mass extinction slated to get worse, threatening even our species.

The team of researchers behind the study, led by Dr. Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, used a list made and maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in order to find current extinction rates. They deemed the list to be a conservative one, but even so, the extinction rate since the turn of the twentieth century has actually been eight to a hundred times higher than the background rate. If this decimation of species is allowed to continue, the planet’s life would take millions of years to recover. Humans, who are reliant on animals in so many ways, would die out early according to Ceballos.

Amphibians are hit extremely hard by mass extinction.

Of the roughly 76,000 IUCN-documented species, the amphibians, which make up 7,300 of those species, have taken a disproportionately heavy toll in terms of number of extinctions. Though only 34 amphibian extinctions have ever been documented, the researchers behind this study believe the true number to be well in excess of 100. One of the main reasons for amphibian species dying out so fast recently has been the rampant spread of a killer fungus, a result of global shipping.

What’s causing this phenomenon and how can we stop it?

Most of the causes for the loss of biodiversity are known to be man-made: deforestation, pollution of the environment, and other human actions are killing off more and more species every year. Gerardo Ceballos and his team caution that we are threatened by this, and have very little time to alter our habits and slow down extinction rates.



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