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Mass Extinctions Are Accelerating, Scientists Report

Mass Extinctions Are Accelerating, Scientists Report thumbnail

We are in the midst of a mass extinction, many scientists have warned — this one driven not by a catastrophic natural event, but by humans. The unnatural loss of biodiversity is accelerating, and if it continues, the planet will lose vast ecosystems and the necessities they provide, including fresh water, pollination, and pest and disease control.

On Monday, there was more bad news: We are racing faster and closer toward the point of collapse than scientists previously thought, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The extinction rate among terrestrial vetebrate species is significantly higher than prior estimates, and the critical window for preventing mass losses will close much sooner than formerly assumed — in 10 to 15 years.

“We’re eroding the capabilities of the planet to maintain human life and life in general,” said Gerardo Ceballos, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and lead author of the new study.

The current rate of extinctions vastly exceeds those that would occur naturally, Dr. Ceballos and his colleagues found. Scientists know of 543 species lost over the last 100 years, a tally that would normally take 10,000 years to accrue.

“In other words, every year over the last century we lost the same number of species typically lost in 100 years,” Dr. Ceballos said.

If nothing changes, about 500 more terrestrial vertebrate species are likely to go extinct over the next two decades alone, bringing total losses equivalent to those that would have taken place naturally over 16,000 years.

To determine how many species are on the brink of extinction, Dr. Ceballos and co-authors Paul Ehrlich, a conservation biologist at Stanford University, and Peter Raven, an environmentalist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, turned to population data for 29,400 terrestrial vertebrate species compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Of those species, 515 — or 1.7 percent — are critically endangered, they found, with fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining. About half of these species comprise fewer than 250 individuals.

ImageA type of poison-dart frog in a breeding center in Colombia.
Credit…Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

The researchers also examined species with populations between 1,000 and 5,000. When the scientists added those 388 species to their original analysis, they found an 84 percent geographic overlap — largely in the tropics — with species in the critically endangered group.

The loss of some will likely trigger a domino effect that sends others into a downward spiral, ultimately threatening entire ecosystems, the authors report. Dr. Ceballos compared this process to removing bricks from the wall of a house.

“If you take one brick out, nothing happens — maybe it just becomes noisier and more humid inside,” he said. “But if you take too many out, eventually your house will collapse.”

Conservationists, therefore, should consider all species with populations under 5,000 individuals to be in danger of extinction, Dr. Ceballos and his colleagues concluded.

“This is a substantial increase in what we have typically thought of as endangered,” said Daniel Blumstein, an ecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the research.

The new study also emphasizes the importance of protecting individual populations of animals, not just a species itself. Based on an analysis of the current and historical ranges of critically endangered species, the researchers calculated that more than 237,000 individual populations have disappeared since 1900.

In a previous study, Dr. Ceballos and Dr. Ehrlich similarly found that 32 percent of 27,600 vertebrate species’ populations are declining around the world.

As populations disappear from geographic areas, the species’ function there also disappears. The loss of honeybees in the United States, for example, would deal an economic blow of more than $15 billion, but the species itself would still survive elsewhere around the world.

“The population declines of common species — top predators, large-bodied herbivores like the rhino, pollinators and others — have large effects on the way ecosystems function even when they are far from extinction,” said Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, who was not involved in the research.

Image

Credit…Hugh Kinsella Cunningham/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Ceballos and his colleagues are telling us with scientific certainty that the survival of these species is linked to our own survival,” she added.

Dr. Ehrlich emphasized that the study’s overall findings were almost certainly a gross underestimate of the true scope of the extinction problem. Their analysis did not take plants or aquatic or invertebrate species into account, and it included only approximately 5 percent of terrestrial vertebrates for which scientists have population data.

The findings are “in fact what one would expect in the gathering biodiversity crisis,” said Thomas Lovejoy, an ecologist at George Mason University, who was not involved in the research. The paper “should be considered a major wake-up call while there is still time to make a difference.”

That so few people are aware of the impending crisis, Dr. Lovejoy added, is a cause of the crisis itself.

Many who are aware may simply feel the loss is not consequential. “People say, ‘What the hell of a difference does it make to me?’” Dr. Ehrlich said.

But often the role of a particular plant or animal in an ecosystem has become apparent only after the species in question is gone.

Passenger pigeons, for example, once numbered in the billions. Their voracious appetite for seeds limited population growth of other seed-eating species, including white-footed mice — the natural reservoir for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

After the passenger pigeon’s extinction, white-footed mice populations exploded, and the risks to human health increased. The impacts of the passenger pigeon’s extinction, researchers wrote in Science, “are still being felt a century after the last passenger pigeon died.”

Image

Credit…Chaideer Mahyuddin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As humans continue to encroach on nature and wildlife, Dr. Ceballos and his colleagues warn of a cascading series of impacts — including more frequent occurrences of new diseases and pandemics. The coronavirus that launched the pandemic originated in a wild animal, most scientists believe.

“The vaccine for Covid-19 was natural habitat,” Dr. Ceballos said. “The pandemic is a great example of how badly we’ve treated nature.”

With enough species losses, ecosystems will eventually fail, destabilizing economies and governments and triggering famine and refugee crises. But there are steps that can be taken now, Dr. Ceballos said.

Habitat loss and wildlife trade are currently responsible for the brunt of the problem, whereas climate change has yet to unleash “the full tsunami” of its impacts, Dr. Ceballos said.

To offset the most urgent wave of extinctions, he and his colleagues call for an immediate end to illegal wildlife trade.

“There’s no way this can be continued, wiping out species and putting the whole of humanity in danger,” Dr. Ceballos said. “We can solve this immediate problem.”

They also call for a halt to deforestation and a complete reform of the legal wildlife trade — one that prioritizes sustainability over profits.

“The most fundamental problem is reducing the scale of the human enterprise, especially its consumptive demands on the biosphere,” Dr. Ehrlich said.

Making these changes will require electing leaders who prioritize the environment, redistributing resources and slowing human population growth. To help organize these efforts, Dr. Ceballos and Dr. Ehrlich launched a new global initiative called Stop Extinction.

The initiative aims to provide a framework for creating new national agreements, as well as tools for educating and activating the public about the unfolding extinction crisis.

“All of us need to understand that what we do in the next five to 10 years will define the future of humanity,” Dr. Ceballos said.

NY Times



26 Comments on "Mass Extinctions Are Accelerating, Scientists Report"

  1. Davy on Mon, 1st Jun 2020 10:12 pm 

    Who the fuck cares about a stupid spotted frog. More blind lying liberal BS.

  2. REAL Green on Mon, 1st Jun 2020 11:55 pm 

    Spotted frogs were kinda cool Davy. They looked REAL Neat. With all them REAL Neat spots and all. There biggest downfall was not understanding economics like we do.

    stupid dumbass frogs

  3. Dooma on Mon, 1st Jun 2020 11:57 pm 

    I feel for the scientists who carried out this study of endangered wildlife. Surely they must know that calling for a halt to illegal wildlife trade and deforestation is a futile request?
    For as long as there is a financial incentive in developing nations coupled with irrational traditional medicinal myths – we will continue to facilitate our demise.

    A few brave persons have tackled the issue of a planned, reduction in population – resulting in rabid attacks by sky God people – and others who brand them as “evil”.

    The genuine evil people on this planet are the handful of exceedingly rich. Who MUST believe their wealth shields them from the worst of ecological destruction?

  4. DT on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 1:20 am 

    There is a top and a bottom of the food chain. Humans are at the top. Lose the bottom of the food chain the top goes away too.

  5. Sissyfuss on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 9:11 am 

    Surprised that Erlich didn’t mention the 83 million hungry mouths to feed we add to the planet every year. We continue to out-virus all the other viruses combined.

  6. chrome mags on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 11:40 am 

    It’s a done deal. The idea of backing off from the destruction of wildlife isn’t even possible due to human behavior. When conservationists in rainforests try to intervene they are murdered. No one is on the high seas stopping the pillage of sea life.

    In a few decades, a mere geologic semi-blink there won’t be much of anything except farm animals we eat and people. Maybe a few rough and tumble species that coexist with people like rats, raccoons and seagulls, but not much else, especially not large animals.

    I use to be affected by it, but at a certain point I turned off to the destruction as something completely out of control.

  7. SocialRevolutionComing on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 2:31 pm 

    Justice pour Adama Traoré: une manifestation interdite s’organise à Paris

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyzH7of17SI

    Illegals immigrants without papers are now starting to riot in France. They want their citizenship so they can get government. The biggest danger to survival of Whites Western nations is not peakoil, it is COVID HOAX and globalists/industrialists agenda, specifically mass migration from third world nations also know as diversity. Again globalists are just fucking stupid greedy low IQ people that failed at everything.

  8. Richard Guenette on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:06 pm 

    Our world needs a global universal basic income system (eliminating both wealth and poverty).

  9. Asshole JuanP sock on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:12 pm 

    Mindless juanPee:

    Richard Guenette on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:06 pm

    Our world needs a global universal basic income system (eliminating both wealth and poverty).

  10. More Davyskum sock puppetry ID theft and lunacy on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:27 pm 

    Asshole davy sock on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:12 pm

    Mindless daveeeee:

  11. LMFAO on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:57 pm 

    JuanP was asked why he has not commented on the moderated side in so long so lookie here dumbass makes a stab at a comment trying to show he is not so chronically depressed he can’t do it. Lame comment IMA

    Re: Predicted Oil Collapse Underway…
    Unread postby JuanP » Tue 02 Jun 2020, 15:18:17

    C8 “I have heard more people will be driving this summer to avoid airlines …”

    More people will be driving private cars than ever before, not only to avoid planes, but to avoid buses, trains, trolleys, minibuses, taxis, Uber rides, cruise ships, and the infrastructure related to them; ports, airports, bus stops, stations, etc.. People will also be more reluctant to share rides on their cars, too. Both vacations and commutes will change, at least temporarily. Add to that very low gas prices, and I expect an increase in car driving, with, maybe, a negative adjustment for increased unemployment. Traffic in Miami already is almost as bad as it ever was, but there are very few planes in the sky.
    Only Americans can hurt America.
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    JuanP
    Tar Sands
    Tar Sands

    Posts: 525
    Joined: Sat 16 Aug 2014, 14:06:32

  12. Davy on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 5:21 pm 

    I am so insecure I have to make up shit like the junk above. It is not enough that do nothing more than make up sock names all day long, and attack the intelligent and not-insane posters. I also made a fake account using Juanpees name in my dumbass one lunatic campaign hoping to get him banned. It hasn’t worked so far, but I keep trying because that is what us OCD neuter types do. Or nutter types.

    I am completely obsessed with stalking JuanP, or ‘Juanpee’ as I call him. It is a sickness Ill admit, but I don’t seem to want to do anything about it. I think I like this being the way I am. You all like me, right?

    I admit it, I need help, and lots of it, but I am too stupid, stubborn and too much the loser to do anything other than stick with my stalking and bullying ways.

    I wish I was dead. I truly do.

  13. Davy on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:02 pm 

    JuanP is finally getting past his denial of mental illness. But I doubt there is hope for him. He is too lost in his psychopathic ways:

    JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 5:21 pm

    I am so insecure I have to make up shit like the junk above. It is not enough that do nothing more than make up sock names all day long, and attack the intelligent and not-insane posters. I also made a fake account using Juanpees name in my dumbass one lunatic campaign hoping to get him banned. It hasn’t worked so far, but I keep trying because that is what us OCD neuter types do. Or nutter types.

    I am completely obsessed with stalking Davy, or ‘real green’ as I call him. It is a sickness Ill admit, but I don’t seem to want to do anything about it. I think I like this being the way I am. You all like me, right?

    I admit it, I need help, and lots of it, but I am too stupid, stubborn and too much the loser to do anything other than stick with my stalking and bullying ways.

    I wish I was dead. I truly do.

  14. makati1 on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:25 pm 

    When I was a boy, long ago, I used to see all kinds of interesting and colorful amphibians everywhere. They all disappeared under the pollution and expanse of the industrial and human horde decades ago. A loss we will never recover. Sigh!

  15. More from the lunatic on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:40 pm 

    Asshole JuanP sock on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:12 pm

    LMFAO on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 4:57 pm

    Davy on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 5:21 pm

    Davy on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:02 pm

  16. Davy on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:54 pm 

    “When I was a boy, long ago, I used to see all kinds of interesting and colorful amphibians everywhere. They all disappeared under the pollution and expanse of the industrial and human horde decades ago. A loss we will never recover. Sigh!”

    Plenty of amphibians and insects on the farm here in the Ozarks. This is a sign of good ecological health.

  17. Asshole juanPee shit on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:55 pm 

    More from the lunatic on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:40 pm

  18. Duncan Idaho on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:00 pm 

    “By deploying the military to pacify this rebellion, all that would be happening is that America would be more honest about the Military-Corporate Empire that the “Land of the Free” truly is.

    Donald Trump is the naked face of the American Empire.”

  19. More from the lunatic on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:07 pm 

    Davy on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:54 pm

    Asshole juanPee shit on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:55 pm

  20. JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:19 pm 

    More from the lunatic on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:07 pm

    JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:54 pm

    Asshole juanPee shit on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 6:55 pm

  21. JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:22 pm 

    “By deploying the military to pacify this rebellion, all that would be happening is that America would be more honest about the Military-Corporate Empire that the “Land of the Free” truly is.”

    Duncan, you are deploying the antifa thugs to destroy cities. You should be ashamed of yourself!!

    Donald Trump is the naked face of the American Empire.”

  22. More from the lunatic on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:24 pm 

    JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:19 pm

    JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:22 pm

  23. JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:29 pm 

    “Antifa arrests coming, concerns over riots heading to suburbia, government source says”
    https://www.foxnews.com/us/antifa-arrests-coming-riots-suburbs

    “Agitators behind the rioting that has paralyzed the country over the past week want to move into more suburban areas, a government intelligence source has told Fox News. Much of the worry stems from the notion that many in well-armed, suburban, and rural neighborhoods won’t hesitate to exercise their Second Amendment rights and elevated anxieties could lead to heavy confrontation. “Antifa knows this,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Local and state authorities have to get a grip on this because if it moves to the suburbs, more people will die.” Several analysts pointed to places that have served as something of “testbed” locations – including Madison, Wis., which was ransacked Saturday night, along with quiet pockets of Charleston, S.C.”

  24. JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:30 pm 

    More from the lunatic on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:24 pm

    JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:19 pm

    JuanP on Tue, 2nd Jun 2020 7:22 pm

  25. shortonoil on Thu, 4th Jun 2020 6:03 am 

    The world is now undergoing total ecological collapse. Civilization, and human dominance will soon end as the earth’s ability to support life continues to rapidly deteriorate. The situation is an order of magnitude greater than this article portrays.

  26. Abraham van Helsing on Thu, 4th Jun 2020 9:51 am 

    Vattenfall has just announced that it will install 140 Siemens-Gamesa 11 MW wind turbines for its 1500 MW “Holland Kust Zuid” offshore windpark:

    https://twitter.com/Vision23/status/1268496938917408768

    A prototype is currently being tested in Denmark:

    https://renews.biz/59062/siemens-gamesa-giant-delivers-full-power/

    Completion date “Hollandse Kust Zuid”: 2023

    https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windpark_Hollandse_Kust_Zuid

    In the current project Borssele I-V 9.5 MW turbines are installed.

    https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windpark_Borssele

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