MIAMI: The world is embarking on its sixth mass extinction with animals disappearing about 100 times faster than they used to, scientists warned Friday, and humans could be among the first victims.
Not since the age of the dinosaurs ended 66 million years ago has the planet been losing species at this rapid a rate, said a study led by experts at Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley.
The study “shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” said co-author Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford University professor of biology.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico.
The analysis is based on documented extinctions of vertebrates from fossil records and other historical data. The modern rate of species loss was compared to the “natural rates of species disappearance before human activity dominated.”
If the past rate was two mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years, then the “average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than it would be without human activity,” said the study.
“We emphasise that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis because our aim was to place a realistic lower bound on humanity’s impact on biodiversity.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2015.