In its long history, planet Earth has experienced five mass extinctions of biodiversity, caused primarily by extreme natural and celestial triggers. The most recent event that wiped out the giant dinosaurs from Earth 66 million years ago was the fifth such event.
Most ecologists believe that the Earth’s vast biodiversity is on the verge of, or entering into, another such devastating mass extinction event. Commonly known as the sixth mass extinction, this particular chain of destruction is believed to be already underway, and human activities are to blame.
Recently, biologists from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, along with the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, published extensive evidence pointing to the ongoing extinction.
Focus on invertebrate creatures
The new research estimates that the Earth has already lost about 7.5% to 13% of its two million known species since the year 1500. The percentages correspond to a whopping 150,000 to 260,000 species.
For this study, the researchers looked specifically at invertebrates such as land snails and nudibranchs. This group of animals makes up most of the Earth’s biodiversity, but often receives very little attention. Also, the IUCN Red List has not documented the risk of extinction among the invertebrates and mainly focuses on mammals and birds.
Scientists claim that when we look at invertebrates in relation to extinction, the situation tends to appear much worse. “The invertebrate image was key to confirming that we are indeed witnessing the beginning of the sixth mass extinction event in Earth history,” said Robert Cowie, the study’s lead author.
Although the crisis is not the same everywhere, island species are much more affected than continental species on land. In addition, there is little or no evidence as to the extent to which animals on oceans are affected compared to those on land.
People continue to deny the mass extinction
The study also points to the lack of acceptance in the population. Scientists claim many people still don’t believe the sixth mass extinction is underway, just like climate change denial.
“Sharply increased rates of species extinction and declining abundances of many animal and plant populations are well documented, but some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinctions,” said Robert Cowie.
He emphasized: “Humans are the only species capable of manipulating the biosphere on a large scale.”
Scientists say it’s important to document as many animals as possible so they can thrive before they’re wiped off the planet. Conservation initiatives must be designed to target all species, rather than helping a select group of larger mammals and birds.
The results were published in the journal Biological Reviews last week and can be accessed here.
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