Researchers have found that Earth is on the verge of a sixth mass extinction, and humans are most likely to blame.
Although the mass extinction is still in its early stages, there are many species that have already gone extinct, and it is predicted that many more will. About one third of all vertebrates are either threatened or endangered, a team of researchers consisting of biologists and ecologists have said.
“Human impacts on animal biodiversity are an under-recognized form of global environmental change,” said the team of researchers in their study, which was published in Science. “Among terrestrial vertebrates, 322 species have become extinct since 1500, and populations of the remaining species show 25% average decline in abundance.”
Over the last 35 years human population has doubled, scientists have said. And during that time, the number of invertebrate animals, such as butterflies, spiders and worms, has decreased by a whopping 45 percent.
The researchers have noted that “overexploitation, habitat destruction, and impacts from invasive species” are most likely the causes of this impending mass extinction. However, climate change will ultimately be the top driver of defaunation, say the scientists.
“To avoid the sixth mass extinction we will probably have to employ more aggressive conservation, such as moving species to help them cope with a changing climate,” explained David Biello in Scientific America. “Think re-wilding: reintroducing species like wolves or beavers that were once present in a given ecosystem but have since disappeared. Aggressive conservation might also mean killing off newcomer species to preserve or make room for local flora and fauna.”
Although people have been making some progress in trying to save a number of species, more work can be done. Getting a better hold on climate change, for example, could be vital in protecting the Earth’s many animals.
For a list of endangered and threatened animals, go to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature’s website.
The findings were published in Science.