Sixth mass extinction has begun, say scientists

Kramer Phillips By Kramer Phillips | 3 years ago

A disturbing new study finds that billions of populations of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, have disappeared from planet Earth, leading the scientists who conducted it to declare that a sixth mass extinction is taking place.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language,” said lead author, Prof. Gerardo Ceballos, in a report by The Guardian.

After analyzing data on some 27,500 species of land vertebrates, the researchers found that a third have seen their habitat ranges shrink over the past decades, including many common species. And a third of those are not now considered endangered.

The “emblematic” case of the lion is an example.

“The lion was historically distributed over most of Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East, all the ay to northwestern India. [Now] the vast majority of lion populations are gone,” write the authors.

The authors blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the devastating loss of wildlife, calling it a “biological annihilation” and a “frightening assault of the foundations of human civilization.” Habitat destruction, pollution, overhunting, invasion by alien species, and climate change all contribute to the crisis.

“The serious warning in our paper needs to be heeded because civilization depends utterly on the plants, animals, and microorganisms of Earth that supply it with essential ecosystem services ranging from crop pollination and protection to supplying food from the sea and maintaining a livable climate,” said co-author Prof. Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, in the Guardian report. “The time to act is very short.”