World 'on the verge of next mass extinction': Humans have caused extinction rates to increase by up to 10,000 times
Humanity is responsible for speeding up the natural rate of extinction for animal and plant species by up to 10,000 times, as the planet is on the brink of a dinosaur-scale sixth mass extinction, a new study has warned.
Species are disappearing around 10 times faster than is widely believed in the scientific community, while in pre-human times extinction rates were slower than previously thought, researchers from Duke University in the US said.
“We are on the verge of the sixth extinction,” lead author, biologist Stuart Pimm, said. “Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”
Praised by independent experts as a landmark report, it focuses around calculating a “death rate” of how many species become extinct each year out of 1 million species.
Analysing the latest research, the team concluded that the pre-human extinction rate was 0.1 per year per 1 million, rather than 1 per 1 million, as a previous study led by Dr Pimm in 1995 suggested.
Today, the rate is at least 1,000 times greater than the 0.1 figure at 100 extinctions per year per million species, but could be up to 1000 per 1 million, Dr Pimm said.
Although a combination of numerous factors is responsible for the acceleration in disappearance of species, the biggest is habitat loss caused by humans, Dr Pimm and co-author Clinton Jenkins from the Institute of Ecological Research in Brazil said.
Other major issues are invasive species introduced by humans crowding out native species, climate change affecting where species can survive and overfishing.
A good example is the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset Dr Jenkins said development in Brazil has decimated its habitat while a competing marmoset has taken over where it lives.
The oceanic white-tip shark used to be one of the most abundant predators on Earth, but they have been hunted so much they are now rarely seen, added Dalhousie University marine biologist Boris Worm, who praised the study. “If we don't do anything, this will go the way of the dinosaurs.”
Other species at great risk include the Sumatran rhinoceros, Amur leopard and mountain gorilla.
Dr Pimm and Mr Jenkins did however say there is some hope. Both said the use of smartphones and applications such as iNaturalist will help ordinary people and biologists find species in trouble, they said. Once biologists know where endangered species are, they can try to save habitats and use captive breeding and other techniques to save the species, they said.
One success story is the golden lion tamarin. Decades ago the tiny primates were thought to be extinct because of habitat loss, but they were then found in remote parts of Brazil and bred in captivity, and biologists helped set aside new forests for them to live in, Dr Jenkins said.
“Now there are more tamarins than there are places to put them,” he said.
Additional reporting by AP
Kielder Forest considered as site for return of wild lynx to the UK after 1,300 year absence
Frilled shark: Australian fishermen capture terrifying shark from the deep
Humanity's 'inexorable' population growth is so rapid that even a global catastrophe would not stop it
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Have you heard 'the hum'? Mystery of Earth's low droning noise could now be solved
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...
£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...