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
Cow 'emissions' more damaging to planet than CO2 from cars
Britain faces malaria risk as climate change sees mosquitoes thriving in garden water butts
As Iraq runs dry, a plague of snakes is unleashed
Neil Young signs on to save the rainforest - using solar powered mobile phones
The top 10 weirdest animal mating rituals
- 1 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 4 Is Ebola coming to Britain? UK health officials issue warning to doctors as outbreak fears grow
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45 after suffering from cancer
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >
Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...
£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...
£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...