- Steven Erquiza
Sixth Mass Extiction Has Begun
According to biologists in Hawaii and France, The “Sixth Mass Extinction’ in Earth’s history is underway.
Mass biodiversity extinction events caused by natural events have marked the history of life on Earth 5 times, and humans are the cause of the current mass extinction.
According to a press release from UH, a comprehensive assessment of the evidence of the ongoing extinction was published in Biological Reviews by biologists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Museum National d’histoire Naturelle in Paris.
“Drastically increased rates of species extinctions and declining abundances of many animal and plant populations are well documented, yet some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinction,” said Robert Cowie, research professor and lead author of the study at the UH Manoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.
“This denial is based on a highly biased assessment of the crisis which focuses on mammals and birds and ignores invertebrates, which of course constitute the great majority of biodiversity,” he said.
Based on the estimates obtained for land snails and slugs, Cowie and co-authors estimated that since the year, Earth could have lost between 7.5% and 13% of the 2 million known species — “a staggering 150,000 to 260,000 species.” “Including invertebrates was key to confirming that we are indeed witnessing the onset of the Sixth Mass Extinction in Earth’s history,” Cowie said.
It was reported that the situation is not really the same everywhere, though. Marine species face threats. So far, there is no evidence that the crisis affects the oceans like the land. Island species like the Hawaiian Islands are more affected than continental species on the land. And the rate of the extinction of plants is lower than that of terrestrial animals.
But of course, there will always be people who will be skeptical. Though others see it as a new and natural evolutionary trajectory, humans are just another species playing their natural role in Earth’s history.
“Humans are the only species capable of manipulating the biosphere on a large scale,” Cowie said. “We are not just another species evolving in the face of external influences. In contrast, we are the only species that has a conscious choice regarding our future and that of Earth’s biodiversity.”
Some conservation initiatives have been successful in helping some animals to fight the crisis. But they cannot target all species, and they do not have the power to reverse the extinction of these species. The authors know that it is vital to continue these efforts, to continue to cultivate wonder for nature, and to document biodiversity before it disappears, according to the press release.
“Despite the rhetoric about the gravity of the crisis, and although remedial solutions exist and are brought to the attention of decision-makers, it is clear that political will is lacking,” Cowie said. “Denying the crisis, accepting it without reacting, or even encouraging it constitutes an abrogation of humanity’s common responsibility and paves the way for Earth to continue on its sad trajectory towards the Sixth Mass Extinction.”