extinction is a world-changing event. In order to qualify, 75
percent of species must be eliminated within a "short" period (between
a few hundred thousand years to a few million years).
This has only happened five times in history, and according to researchers at
the University of California, Berkley, it's happening a sixth time. This time,
they claim humans are to blame.
The worst mass extinction in history occurred during the Permian Period, when
most land species perished. While that won't likely happen, the majority
of non-domesticate large land species may perish over the next a thousand years
if mankind doesn't change its behavior, according to the researchers.
Anthony Barnosky, the curator of the Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley and
another co-author of the study, comments that species go extinct today just as
they have always. However, the real question is, "Is the pace of
extinction we're seeing today over these short time intervals usual or
To try to answer that question, Professor Barnosky and his student Elizabeth
Ferrer had to comb both the fossil record and modern conservation biology for
clues. This wasn't easy as the fossil record has plenty of holes and the
best source for modern data -- the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened and endangered species -- only
has examined 2.7 percent of the planet's 1.9 million named species (which is
likely far from the total species count).
Comparing to historically-known times of normal extinction rate, the pair says
that current extinction rates are conservatively estimated to be 3 to 12 time
higher, with the actual multiplier possibly being as high as 80. Even
under the "best case" 3x scenario, within 22 centuries the world
would reach a "mass extinction" scenario.
The team says we're just on the cusp of causing this. Over the last 200
years we've caused approximately 1 to 2 percent of species to go extinct --
much higher than normal extinction rates. As invertebrate data was still
too week to draw strong comparisons, the study focused its efforts largely on
vertebrate extinction. Its findings were that man is driving the Earth
towards a mass extinction.
The results will likely be the evolutionary
mechanism being kicked into overdrive due to less species, more
resources, and smaller populations of surviving species (allowing for random
In an interview with LiveScience, David Jablonski, a
paleontologist at the University of Chicago who did not participate in the
"If the fossil record tells us one thing, it's that when we kick over into
a mass extinction regime, results are extreme, they're irreversible and they're
unpredictable. Factors that promote success and survival during normal times
seem to melt away."
The study was published [abstract] in
what is arguably the science field's most prestigious journal -- Nature.
The article is drawing a great deal of attention for its comprehensive
review and the startling perspective it provides.
Ms. Ferrer morosely remarks on the attention the study is drawing, "It's
bittersweet, because we're showing that we have this crisis."
Some reacted to the study with prophesies of doom and gloom. Comments
Paul Ehrlich, the president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford
University and author of "The Population Bomb" (Sierra
Club-Ballantine, 1968), "Everything we're doing in Washington [D.C.] today
is working in the wrong direction. There isn't a single powerful person in the
world who is really talking about what the situation is … It's hard to be
cheery when you don't see the slightest sign of any real attention being
Others, like Stuart Pimm, a professor of conservation ecology at Duke
University, were more optimistic. He comments, "If we have a
business-as-usual scenario, it is pretty grim, but it isn't yet written. I hope
that this will alert people to the fact that we are living in geologically
unprecedented times. Only five times in Earth's history has life been as
threatened as it is now."
Regardless of whether the trend continues or reverses, some of the extinction
event's most noticeable changes may be coming soon. Several large land
predator species, including the tiger are
on the verge of extinction in the wild and may vanish within a few
Interestingly, while rainforest destruction continues at a break-neck pace
threatening mass extinction of millions of species, mankind's attention remains
largely wrapped around debating
"climate change" a shift in the Earth's temperatures due to
carbon dioxide -- a change which would contribute far less to the loss of
biodiversity (and could even promote biodiversity in some areas).
quote: 2.7 percent of the planet's 1.9 million named species (which is likely far from the total species count)
quote: With the exception of the deep ocean every place on earth is of easy access
quote: Americans are more concerned with debating global warming than destruction of the rainforests
quote: well considering they have only looked at 2.7% of known named species, its really kinda hard to say anything with certainty.
quote: Yeah, I mean even as all the vertebrates die out
quote: "Discoveries like this one remind us that we still have a lot to learn about the biodiversity of the Amazon,"
quote: Human being is like a virus, spreading all over its ecosystem and claiming it as its own.
quote: Honeybees and Bats are very likely to be completely extinct in quite a short time.
quote: analysis of global honey bee populations (by Aizen and Harder*) shows a 45% increase in total numbers since 1961
quote: The National Agriculture Statistics Service reported that there were 2.44 million honey-producing hives in the United States as of February 2008, down from 4.5 million in 1980, and 5.9 million in 1947
quote: In 2010 the USDA reported that data on overall honey bee losses for 2010 indicate an estimated 34 percent loss, which is statistically similar to losses reported in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
quote: Little brown myotis are sustaining the largest number of deaths
quote: What seems sad to me is that well respected journals like Nature seem so happy to publish and promote these sorts of stories/articles, in affect validating them and lending them their support, seemingly because of the publicity and "shock" factor that they know that this sort of study will produce.
quote: The editors of Nature are esteemed scientists.
quote: it's always from an unidentifiable commentator who for all we know is reading from a script.
quote: And here someone is trashing one of the most esteemed journals in all science. What a joke!
quote: Americans are more concerned with debating global warming than destruction of the rainforests, the planet's greatest biodiverse locations.
quote: We have the highest per capita consumption in the world.
quote: So you want a world in which there are no predators to check the population of herbivores?
quote: TextThis site is not a "balanced view" of anything.
quote: Count of Extinct Mammal SpeciesIsland vs. Continental Country TotalExtinct Island Mammal Species Various 58Extinct Continental Mammal Species Mexico 1Extinct Continental Mammal Species Algeria 1Extinct Continental Mammal Species South Africa 1Extinct Continental Mammal Species Subtotal 3Grand Total Extinct Mammal Species 61Data – http://creo.amnh.orgOf the 4,428 known mammal species (Red List 2004) living in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and Antarctica, only three mammals have gone extinct in the last 500 years. These were the Bluebuck antelope, South Africa; the Algerian gazelle, Algeria; and the Omilteme cottontail rabbit, Mexico.Turning next to birds, when we are studying the extinction of species, birds have a very useful trait — they are extremely visible. Nearly all of them fly up where we can see them; they make distinct and identifiable noises; many are brightly colored; none are too small to see; many roost in trees so they can be seen from afar with binoculars; in all, they are perhaps the most visible of all classes of life. Because of this, they are well-known to humans everywhere — all 129 extinct birds have a common name, for example, which is not the case with other classes of animals. Based on where the birds breed, here’s how the data from the Red List divides out between continental and island bird extinctions:Count of Extinct Bird SpeciesIsland vs. Continental Country TotalExtinct Island Bird Species Various 123Extinct Continental Bird Species Mexico 1Extinct Continental Bird Species Guatemala 1Extinct Continental Bird Species Colombia 1Extinct Continental Bird Species US 2Extinct Continental Bird Species Canada, US 1Extinct Continental Bird Species Total 6Grand Total Extinct Bird Species 129Data – http://www.redlist.orgWe see the same pattern with birds as with mammals. Of the 128 extinct bird species, 122 of them were island extinctions. Of the 8,971 known continental bird species (Red List 2004), 6 have gone extinct.
quote: Just scrolling through the articles, every time an environmental researcher or any other group that supports environmental standards is mentioned, some dismissive comment is added like:the eco-pressure group, the Union of Concerned Scientists,opportunist Mark Serreze of NSIDC(and that is just in the first few articles.
quote: "... destroy those who destroy the earth."
quote: The sick, poor, stupid and/or lazy people are supposed to die
quote: Weaker species should die so stronger should survive, that's part of evolutionary theory right? So why is this a bad thing?