The sixth mass extinction will hit harder than expected, according to a collaborative study between Stanford and the University of Mexico. 32% of all vertebrate species are steadily decreasing, even if one third of them classify as low concern species.
We already knew that animals and plants are going extinct 100 to 1 000 times faster than what is normal (and those are the most conservative estimates). If we stay on this course, the general consensus is that around 30% of all species will be gone by 2050. The scientific community went from asking if the next mass extinction is underway to asking if it’s going to be worse than the last one – which, keep in mind, killed most of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
Now, researchers say that assessments based on species extinctions, alarming as they may be, might be underestimating the problem. According to the article published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States:
“Our data indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations [EN: local extinctions], which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.”
This huge study is based on a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species (which is roughly half of them). All of the 177 mammal species among them have seen their natural range significantly shrink, 40% of them have seen their populations decrease by 80% or more.
The article concludes: “we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most…”
*Featured image by Robert Young under Creative Commons