FunNature & AnimalThe sixth mass extinction has already begun

The sixth mass extinction has already begun

On our planet, the most famous mass extinction event was the giant asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. It destroyed about 76% of the world’s species. Now, scientists point out that the sixth mass extinction event is already underway.

A new study by biologists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France, has published a comprehensive assessment of the overwhelming evidence for this ongoing extinction event in the journal Biological Reviews.


A great die-off is underway

And this time it is not caused by extreme natural phenomena. We humans are responsible for this sixth extinction.

According to the authors, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species does a disservice to the real situation, as it gives the impression that the current rate of species loss remains in line with the background rate. “However, the Red List is very biased. Only a small fraction of invertebrates have been evaluated according to conservation criteria”, say the experts.

Scientists point, in fact, to another type of denial focused on the crisis of mammals and birds and ignoring invertebrates, which make up the vast majority of biodiversity.

Species extinction rates have increased dramatically and the decline in abundance of many animal and plant populations is well documented, but some deny that these events amount to mass extinction,” says Robert Cowie of the School’s Research Center. of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Technologies (SOEST) and lead author of the study.


The data

Scientists estimate that up to 13% of all invertebrate species (snails, slugs…) may have become extinct in the last 500 years; that is, of the approximately two million known species, between 150,000 and 260,000 species have become extinct if we speak of absolute numbers.

Although more and more marine species are threatened, the crisis affecting the seas and oceans is not as serious as the one affecting land, where insular species are being more affected than continental ones.

They warn that, right now, we have a responsibility to take action to prevent a catastrophic decline in biodiversity. “We are not just another species that evolves in the face of external influences. On the contrary, we are the only species that has a conscious choice regarding our future and that of the Earth’s biodiversity, ”they explain. And we are the only species with the ability to manipulate the biosphere on such a large scale.

“Denying the crisis, accepting it without reacting or even encouraging it constitutes a derogation from the common responsibility of humanity and paves the way for the Earth to continue on its sad trajectory towards a Sixth Mass Extinction ,” the authors conclude.

Referencia: “The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction or speculation?” by Robert H. Cowie, Philippe Bouchet and Benoît Fontaine, 10 January 2022, Biological Reviews.
DOI: 10.1111/brv.12816


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