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Science & Technology

Earth's sixth mass extinction may be underway

By T.K. Randall
June 20, 2015 · Comment icon 20 comments



The Thylacine famously went extinct back in 1936. Image Credit: Benjamin A. Sheppard
With species disappearing in their thousands our planet may be on the verge of a mass extinction event.
Mass extinctions have occurred a total of five times in our planet's 4.5 billion-year history. Some, such as the disappearance of the dinosaurs following an asteroid strike 65 million years ago, are particularly well known while others, such as the Late Devonian extinction, are not.

A mass extinction is typically defined as an event in which three quarters of all plant and animal species on the planet go extinct within the space of one million years and now it appears as though this might actually be happening again right under our noses.

In a new study published in Science Advances scientists have outlined the fact that over the last few thousand years we have been seeing species disappearing at unprecedented levels.
"The loss of biodiversity is one of the most critical current environmental problems, threatening valuable ecosystem services and human well-being," the study authors wrote.

"A growing body of evidence indicates that current species extinction rates are higher than the pre-human background rate, with hundreds of anthropogenic vertebrate extinctions documented in prehistoric and historic times."

If this species loss continues then it could have dire consequences for mankind, in particular if food chains collapse and we are unable to produce enough to sustain our ever-growing population.

"Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing," the study authors wrote.

Source: Gizmodo | Comments (20)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #11 Posted by Doug1029 8 years ago
I fear that in the unlikely event wisdom does not prevail to stop man's degradation of the Earth, plague, famine and disease may instead. Disease has always been the limiting factor on human population growth. It's even bigger than war and reduces population with less environmental damage. BUT: the last disease intense enough to actually reduce human populations was the Black Death. Doug
Comment icon #12 Posted by socrates.junior 8 years ago
The Spanish Flu was bad too. Not as devastating percentage wise though.
Comment icon #13 Posted by MeOnlyMe 8 years ago
Scary stuff, you would think that society would be spending money on things like this instead of like... War? Anyone who starts war or allows crime via presidential order should be held for criminal charges. NATO police.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Athena1979 8 years ago
Human over population causing less places for animals? Have you been to Montana? How about Colorado? Wyoming, Iowa, Texas, Alaska? There are still many wide open spaces out there where you don't see another human being for at least 100 miles in any direction. Let's not hyperventilate on another climate change scare.
Comment icon #15 Posted by UFO_Monster 8 years ago
Human over population causing less places for animals? Have you been to Montana? How about Colorado? Wyoming, Iowa, Texas, Alaska? There are still many wide open spaces out there where you don't see another human being for at least 100 miles in any direction. Let's not hyperventilate on another climate change scare. That's not the point... All it will take is several animals to go extinct. Then ecosystems will be thrown into chaos. The honey bee is especially not doing well right now. If that goes, we all go.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Varelse 8 years ago
Human over population causing less places for animals? Have you been to Montana? How about Colorado? Wyoming, Iowa, Texas, Alaska? There are still many wide open spaces out there where you don't see another human being for at least 100 miles in any direction. Let's not hyperventilate on another climate change scare. I live in Iowa. Every square inch that isn't being used for food production is either trees or houses. And there aren't that many trees. But it's not so much about the open spaces as it will be about the lack of resources. It's about clean water. It's about the weather needed in pl... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Ashotep 8 years ago
Disease has always been the limiting factor on human population growth. It's even bigger than war and reduces population with less environmental damage. BUT: the last disease intense enough to actually reduce human populations was the Black Death. Doug Modern medicine has reduced the number of deaths for now anyway. One day something will come along that will spread easily and kill half the people it infects.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Zalmoxis 8 years ago
I think that if an extinction begins within our lifetimes and it is slow enough for us to watch it progress then there will definitely be some subterranean bases that the more wealthy members of our species will run to and hide with their survival supplies and wait out whatever disaster it is that is threatening the life on our planet.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Br Cornelius 8 years ago
I think that if an extinction begins within our lifetimes and it is slow enough for us to watch it progress then there will definitely be some subterranean bases that the more wealthy members of our species will run to and hide with their survival supplies and wait out whatever disaster it is that is threatening the life on our planet. It has already begun. Loss of 40% of total biodiversity since the 1980's. Nearly half the damage it previously took us to achieve in 8 thousand years in less than 50. Its debatable whether anyone will be able to survive when it all plays out, regardless of their... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by Doug1029 8 years ago
Modern medicine has reduced the number of deaths for now anyway. One day something will come along that will spread easily and kill half the people it infects. We can thank public health campaigns for most of the reduction in disease. It really helps if your drinking water is not contaminated by cholera. Medicine concentrates on curing the sick: public health concentrates on keeping people from getting sick in the first place. There are still some possible diseases like a new variant of bird flu that could do it. Or maybe something we don't even know about. Ebola was a bust. There are still ne... [More]


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