Earth's Sixth Extinction Event Already Under Way
A “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is already well underway and is more severe than previously feared, according to new research.
Scientists analysed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilisation, although there remains a short window of time in which to act.
The new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, eschews the normally sober tone of scientific papers and calls the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” that represents a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation”.
Prof Gerardo Ceballos, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who led the work, said: “The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”[.....]
Earth’s five previous mass extinctions
End-Ordovician, 443 million years agoA severe ice age led to sea level falling by 100m, wiping out 60-70% of all species which were prominently ocean dwellers at the time. Then soon after the ice melted leaving the oceans starved of oxygen.
Late Devonian, c 360 million years agoA messy prolonged climate change event, again hitting life in shallow seas very hard, killing 70% of species including almost all corals.
Permian-Triassic, c 250 million years agoThe big one – more than 95% of species perished, including trilobites and giant insects – strongly linked to massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that caused a savage episode of global warming.
Triassic-Jurassic, c 200 million years agoThree-quarters of species were lost, again most likely due to another huge outburst of volcanism. It left the Earth clear for dinosaurs to flourish.
Cretaceous-Tertiary, 65 million years agoAn giant asteroid impact on Mexico, just after large volcanic eruptions in what is now India, saw the end of the dinosaurs and ammonites. Mammals, and eventually humans, took advantage.