The 6th mass extinction on Earth is happening now and its man made

Each of the previous extinctions wiped out between 50 and 90 percent of all species on the planet.

The most recent occurred about 65 million years ago, when an asteroid ended the reign of the dinosaurs.

The Holocene or sixth mass extinction is already underway. A 2017 study calls the loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” and a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization”.

A 2016 study published in the journal Science suggests this sixth mass extinction is killing off large ocean dwellers (like sharks, whales, giant clams, sea turtles and tuna) in disproportionately greater numbers than smaller animals. That’s a reversal from past extinctions, when there was a slight correlation between smaller size and going extinct.

The 6th extinction is man made

Previous extinctions were often linked to asteroids or volcanoes, but this one is man made.

Species are disappearing up to 114 times more quickly than they did during previous mass extinctions.

Extinction is a natural part of evolution, having already claimed an estimated 99 percent of all species in Earth’s history, but when too many species die out too quickly, it creates a domino effect which is capable of bringing down entire ecosystems.

Loss of habitat

The main cause of wildlife declines is loss of habitat and fragmentation which is the primary threat for 85 percent of all species on the IUCN Red List. That includes deforestation for farming, logging and settlement, but also the less obvious threat of fragmentation by roads and other infrastructure.

Invasive species

Invasive species now threaten a variety of native plants and animals around the world, either by killing them directly or by beating them to food and nest sites.

Pollution

Pollution is pervasive on land, in the air and in our oceans – from chemicals like mercury that accumulate in fish to plastic waste that is strangling our oceans.

Vertebrates are disappearing fast

Earth’s entire vertebrate population has fallen 52 percent in the last 45 years, and the threat of extinction still looms for many including an estimated 41 percent of all amphibian species and 26 percent of mammals.

Humans are not safe either

With a global population of about 7.5 billion, humans may not be seen as in danger, but that could change very quickly. We are reliant on healthy ecosystems for food, water and other resources. Adjusting to mass extinctions would be a challenge under any circumstances, but it’s especially daunting in the context of climate change.

Is it too late?

Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México, lead author of the new study says: “If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on.”

The authors of the new study say avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species, and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, over-exploitation for economic gain and climate change.

Watch: Stanford researcher warns sixth mass extinction is here

 

Latest from South Coast Sun