For years, scientists have warned that Earth is entering it sixth mass extinction — an era in which three-quarters of all species die off within only a few centuries. However terrifying this notion may be, nothing compares to a recent finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which paints a full picture of “biological annihilation.” According to the study, which was conducted by Gerardo Ceballos, an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, hundreds of species are disappearing at a faster-than-expected rate. And, believe it or not, even humans are at-risk.
The researchers wrote that numerous species around the world are experiencing an “extremely high degree of population decay.” Findings from the study support this. For instance, nearly one-third of the 27,600 land-based mammals, bird, amphibian and reptile species are shrinking in terms of territorial range and their numbers.
After looking at a well-documented group of 177 mammal species, the researchers also determined that all had their territories reduced by at least 30 percent between the years of 1900 and 2015. Furthermore, more than 40 percent of the species lost at least 80 percent of their geographic range during this time. As a result of these findings, the study authors wrote that “Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe” than previously believed. Additionally, the major event is “ongoing.”
Scientists have already established that 50 percent of the Earth’s wildlife has been wiped out in the last 40 years alone, but no one really comprehended the extent to which the numbers have declined. According to Anthony Barnosky, executive director of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve at Stanford University, this is because conservationists and researchers are “not constantly counting numbers of individuals.” He added, “it doesn’t take complicated math to figure out that, if we keep cutting by half every 40 years, pretty soon there’s going to be nothing left.”
Perhaps the most terrifying discovery is that species are going extinct at roughly 100 times the rate which could be considered normal. In fact, within twenty years, the African elephant may go extinct. Barn swallows, giraffes, rhinos, pangolins, and jaguars, as well, may only be preserved in zoos if their populations continue to decline.
With 37 percent of the Earth’s land surface now farmland or pasture (according to the World Bank), and humans utilizing polluting resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished, the whole world is in jeopardy unless sustainable initiatives are introduced and implemented. Fortunately, there’s still time, according to Ceballos. He wrote, “The good news is, we still have time. These results show it is time to act. The window of opportunity is small, but we can still do something to save species and populations.”
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