According to a recent study, humans had already pushed Earth into its sixth mass extinction, with animal species dying off at a 100 times accelerated pace that they normally should.
Scientists argued that the current mass extinction is the worst of its kind since mass extinction of dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. The new study also shows that humans have accelerated the rate at which species are dying out due to climate change, poaching, and widespread pollution.
Though the sixth mass extinction is only at its beginning, 77 species of mammals went extinct along with 140 species of birds and more than 30 types of amphibians. Researchers mentioned Steller’s sea cow, the Atlas bear, the warrah, the quagga, and the dodo among the species that vanished off the face of the Earth.
The new study was conducted by a team of researchers from Stanford University, and was published last week in the journal Science Advances.
Professor Paul Ehrlich, a co-author of the study and researcher at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, explained that the sixth great mass extinction has already started. He added that species are going extinct this time at 100 times faster rate than the “background rate”, or the normal rate of going extinct within a mass extinction event.
“Our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis.[…] There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,”
Prof. Ehrlich also said.
The team analyzed animal remains and the data on previous extinctions from various sources. They were thus able to estimate the background rate of those extinctions, which they later compared with the rate of current extinctions.
Usually, two species of animals were going extinct every 10,000 years, but in modern days that rate jumped 114 percent.
Nevertheless, researchers explained that not only climate change was the cause of the die offs. Humans have been recklessly hunting or destroying the natural habitat of endangered species for more than 2000 years. For instance, in Australia humans wiped out marsupial lion and the giant wombat, while in Oceania more than 1,800 types of bird died out in the last two millennia.
Current conservative estimates show that one in four mammals is at risk of going extinct. But many of them now exist only in captivity.
Gerardo Ceballos, lead author of the study, explained that it takes millions of years for life to recover. So in the meantime our species could go extinct as well.
Image Source: Discover Wildlife
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