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Human Population Growth, Consumption Has Increased Species Extinctions by More Than 1,000 Times Natural Rate


A new study published in the internationally recognized journal Science has determined that the current rate of species extinctions is more than 1,000 times greater than the background rate calculated from the fossil record and genetic data, spanning millions of years. The primary cause of this dramatic rise in the loss of species is human population growth and increased consumption, according to the study.

“This important study confirms that species are going extinct at a pace not seen in tens of millions of years, and unlike past extinction events, the cause is us,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The loss of species has drastic consequences for us all by degrading ecosystems that clean our air and water and are a source of food and medicine, and by making our world less interesting and a more lonely place. This study underscores the importance of laws like the Endangered Species Act and the need for swift action to reverse the disturbing trend of extinction.”

In likely the most comprehensive assessment of species extinction rates yet, the study led by acclaimed conservation biologist Dr. Stuart Pimm of Duke University found the rate at which mammals, birds and amphibians are moving toward extinction over the past four decades would have been 20 percent higher were it not for conservation efforts.

The study uses newly available data on species distributions and imperilment to quantify the current extinction rate, which was estimated to be at least 100 extinctions per million species-years. The researchers then analyzed extensive data on rates of speciation and extinction over millions of years to estimate a background or natural rate of extinction of .1 extinctions per million species-years, leading to the new estimate that we have increased the rate of extinction by at least 1,000 times.

This estimate is considered conservative because of the large number of species still unknown to science, the fact that a majority of such species are likely to be rare and at risk, and uncertainties in predicting future extinctions given increased habitat destruction, spread of invasive species and diseases, and global warming.

“The findings of this study are alarming to say the least,” said Greenwald. “But it also shows we can make a difference if we choose to and should be a clarion call to take action to protect more habitat for species besides our own and to check our own population growth and consumption.”

The study further notes that some groups of species are going extinct at even greater rates. North American freshwater fishes, for example, were found to be going extinct at a rate of 305 extinctions per million species-years, or more than 3,000 times greater than the background rate, and the continent’s snails and slugs are going extinct at a rate nearly 10,000 times background. These high rates reflect the degree to which we have degraded rivers and lakes in North America with dams, pollution, spread of non-native species and direct destruction.

“There can be no question that we’re fouling our own nest, but what this study shows is that this has consequences not just for us, but for the millions of other species with which we share this world,” said Greenwald.


9 Comments on "Human Population Growth, Consumption Has Increased Species Extinctions by More Than 1,000 Times Natural Rate"

  1. J-Gav on Fri, 30th May 2014 3:39 pm 

    Humanity’s view that it is separate from, and superior to, Nature, could be our downfall. A little more humility as to our place in the universe would be a welcome development.

  2. Juan Pueblo on Fri, 30th May 2014 5:16 pm 

    Nothing new here.

  3. Makati1 on Fri, 30th May 2014 7:17 pm 

    Third world consumption is still mostly necessities, not luxuries. The developed countries are the guilty parties that have drained the world of it’s resources. 80+% of the stuff made for the West is junk. Crap designed to make money, not fill a useful/necessary part of our life. Think about it and look around you. What do you see that would help to keep you alive if everything fell apart? THOSE are necessities. everything else is waste.

  4. Davy, Hermann, MO on Fri, 30th May 2014 8:00 pm 

    Yea Mak, the third world produces most of the junk. They could just say no. The third world could just say no to large families they can’t provide for. I am sorry you live in an overpopulated unsupportable third world city of 12MIL soon to be hungry natives.

  5. Northwest Resident on Fri, 30th May 2014 9:08 pm 

    Makati1 — The people living in third world countries are like the bacteria in a petri dish that weren’t strong enough or lucky enough to find themselves in a position to over-consume, otherwise they would have. The Western industrialized nations are like the bacteria in a petri dish that found themselves wallowing in prime nutrition, and being the bacteria that are, they ate as much as they could and they pushed all the weaker bacteria out of the way as they munched their glutonous way to supremacy and ultimately to depletion. That’s life on planet earth, get over it. Stop blaming Americans or “the West” for over-consuming — anybody and any nation would have done it given the same opportunity. It is just silly and irrelevant to spend your time blaming at this point in the game. This is God’s creation, and we are animals. Individually we can strive to be better, but taken as a whole, humans are just like bacteria in a petri dish.

  6. HARM on Sat, 31st May 2014 3:17 am 

    “Stop blaming Americans or “the West” for over-consuming — anybody and any nation would have done it given the same opportunity.”

    Exactly. Could not have put it better myself. Reverse the positions and technology of India vs. Western Europe 500 years ago and today Mak would be living among Europeans and bitching about those “overconsuming greedy” Indians.

  7. Makati1 on Sat, 31st May 2014 5:01 am 

    But, it is the US that has the power to subjugate the rest of the world. India did not have the oil to do it. Nor did any other country. Only America was founded on greed. They took the land from the natives, the Mexicans and purchased the rest cheap. The Us was built on the back of slaves and indentured servants. WW1 was an opportunity to get rich and WW2 was promoted to do the same, by the bankster class. They became addicted to the profits of war and we have been at war ever since. Call them police action or whatever, they are spreaders of terror and poverty to the rest of the world.

    No, I will not defend the country of my birth because it is not worth defending. The sooner it fails, and takes down the M/S.I.C., the better for ALL concerned, even Americans.

  8. Davy, Hermann, MO on Sat, 31st May 2014 6:47 am 

    Mak, you are so redundant and boring. Why can’t you contribute to this board instead of the endless poor quality US bashing and East glorification? At least you sidekick Noob only briefly visits. I have not heard from DC in a long time. At least he would provide thought provoking US bashing filth. Most all of us here are criticizing the US because it need criticism. Your criticism comes from psychological issues related to your childhood and early adult life probably a failure. Your current issue is cognitive dissonance with your very poor decision to move to a third world mega city of 12MIL with zero chance of supporting itself in a food crisis. To a country severely in population overshoot and ecological collapse. At your age you will not be able to make it through the turmoil ahead of you in just a few years. Mak, your personal issues are not meant for this board. Leave them at home.

  9. Northwest Resident on Sat, 31st May 2014 1:19 pm 

    Makati1 is not here to comment or speculate on peak-oil related issues. Makati1 is here to vent, to blame, to make the same idiotic accusations over and over and over, to curse America and all Americans, to revel in the future disintegration of American society and to rejoice in the death and suffering that will result, to channel his hate and anger into monotonous post after monotonous post. Makati1, you have a serious problem.

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