The world’s next massive extinction will most likely be caused not by an asteroid impact, volcano activity or alien invasion, but by us humans. A study that looked at the past and present rates of extinction found that plants and animals are going extinct 1,000 times faster than they did before humans walked on Earth’s surface. So, is it clear yet that humans aren’t living sustainable with our planet?
Biologists, heck everybody for that matter, knew that species are going extinct faster than they should have because of human intervention, but the current findings indicate that this happening at a rate 10 times faster than previously believed.
So far, scientists have discovered that life on Earth was on the brink of becoming wiped out a number of five times. The last time this happened was 65 million years ago when an asteroid impact killed off the dinosaurs and two thirds of all life. The most devastating blow came 252 million years ago when the Great Dying snuffed out about 90 percent of the world’s species.
“We are on the verge of the sixth extinction,” noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University said from research at the Dry Tortugas. “Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”
The key to the study lies in the fact that it looked at the rate at which species disappear, and not quantity. Pimm and colleagues thus calculated a “death rate” of how many species become extinct each year out of 1 million species. Pimm first made this study in 1995 and found that the pre-human rate of extinctions on Earth was about 1. Now, that death rate is about 100 to 1,000, Pimm said.
The are many factors that cause species to become extinct, from overcrowding and competition with invasive species, to climate change, to direct human intervention like hunting. The oceanic white-tip shark used to be one of the most abundant predators on Earth and they have been hunted so much they are now rarely seen, said Dalhousie University marine biologist Boris Worm, who wasn’t part of the study but praised it. “If we don’t do anything, this will go the way of the dinosaurs.”
This isn’t the end, though. The hand that destroys can also create and foster. Better environmental and animal rights policies need to be implemented, and first of all the general populace needs to become more informed on how society today is a mass murderer. One success story is the golden lion tamarin. Decades ago the tiny primates were thought to be extinct because of habitat loss, but they were then found in remote parts of Brazil, bred in captivity and biologists helped set aside new forests for them to live in, the researchers involved in the study said. The findings were reported in a paper published in the journal Science.