A scientific study reveals that a variety of animal species are dying-out 100 times faster than normal. In other words, some species are rapidly becoming extinct within 10 years, instead of a more typical 1000-year time span.
There is no longer any doubt: We are entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity’s existence. That is the bad news at the center of a new study by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Ehrlich and his co-authors call for fast action to conserve threatened species, populations and habitat, but warn that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
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The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that even with extremely conservative estimates, species are disappearing up to 114 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México.
The long list of impacts includes:
- land clearing for farming, logging and settlement
- introduction of invasive species
- carbon emissions that drive climate change and ocean acidification
- toxins that alter and poison ecosystems.
“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.” the study’s authors write.
In the meantime, the researchers hope their work will inform conservation efforts, the maintenance of ecosystem services, and public policy.
— Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment