A study published on Friday in the journal Scientific Advances says that animal species are disappearing at such an accelerating rate that the earth might be facing the sixth mass extinction in its history of 4.5 billion years.
One of the lead authors of the study, Anthony Barnosky, who is a paleontologist at UC Berkley said that if humans continue to live as they are doing right now the population is on its way to experiencing a mass extinction in two human lifetimes.
The study indicates that 198 species have disappeared since 1900. They are species of dodo or Raphus cucullatus, the passenger pigeon, also known as Ectopistes migratorius and the Caribbean monk seal or Neomonachus tropicalis.
According to Barnosky if the conservation efforts won’t be intensified the mass extinction which follows will be similar to what happened to the dinosaurs. According to him if things go on as they are right now in two human lifetimes three out of four species on Earth will be lost.
The authors of the study noted that the most worrying environmental problem right now is the loss of biodiversity. This threatens both precious ecosystem services and the well-being of humans. Evidence shows that the species extinction which is taking place right now is more worrying than how the situation was before human activity was dominant.
The study was based on analysis of documented extinctions of vertebrates such as reptiles, frogs and tigers. The researchers analyzed various historical data such as fossil records. According to fossil records vertebrate species would have an extinction rate of 2 per 100 year in 10.000 species if human activity would not be so intense. This means that nine species would have gone extinct since 1900.
But the reality is that at least 198 species of vertebrates have been lost starting with 1900. They include 66 fishes, 57 birds, 35 mammals, 32 amphibians and 8 reptiles. If species which are extinct or possibly extinct in the wild are added, the number rises to 477 species.
The research also indicates that humans are to blame for these worrying rates of extinctions. The carbon which humans are emitting is the cause of climate change and ocean acidification. On top of that the cutting of forests drives invasive species and poisons to fragile ecosystems.
Image Source: Lunar and Planetary Institute