Climate Change

Sixth Extinction? Over 150,000 species vanished in last 500 years

Nearly half of 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80% of their distribution between 1900 and 2015

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 19 January 2022

A new study led by the University of Hawaii has claimed that Earth is witnessing its sixth mass extinction event. And unsurprisingly, the research blames human activities for the rapid deterioration of the number of species on the planet. Earth has experienced five mass extinctions caused by natural phenomena, with the last one happening about 65 million years ago.

The peer-reviewed study, which has been published in Biological Reviews analysed both common and rare species and found out that billions of local populations have been already lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of our civilisation. They called the drastic reduction of wildlife a “biological annihilation”.

The researchers pointed out that nearly half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80 per cent of their distribution between 1900 and 2015. And furthermore, the team also found many extinct species are not accounted for in The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. The head of the research, Robert Cowie, said that the Red List is biased and leaves out most invertebrates — a group that has seen a dramatic loss and is the majority of biodiversity on Earth.

The paper also added that plants too have faced similar conservation biases as invertebrates. The researchers called for scientists to unite and do everything possible to stop the extinction of species.

Billionaire Elon Musk was among those who took notice of the study and tweeted that there is a 100 per cent chance of all species becoming extinct due to the expansion of the Sun. Even though the solution proposed by the tech tycoon was to make life multi-planetary, we at Down To Earth think it’s our job to clean this mess rather than pack our bags and catch the next space shuttle.

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