Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Species Are Going Extinct 1,000 Times Faster Because of Humans

Species Are Going Extinct 1,000 Times Faster Because of Humans

A new landmark study, published yesterday in Science, has found that the current rate of species extinctions is more than 1,000 times greater than their natural rate, calculated from the fossil record and genetic data spanning millions of years, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The new study used the fossil record and genetic data to determine that species of plants and animals are going extinct 1,000 times faster than their natural rate—that is, when humans arrived.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The primary cause of this dramatic rise in loss of species is human population growth, habitat loss and increased consumption, as well as uncertainties in predicting future extinctions from the spread of invasive species, diseases and climate change

“This important study confirms that species are going extinct at a pace not seen in tens of millions of years, and unlike past extinction events, the cause is us,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The loss of species has drastic consequences for us all by degrading ecosystems that clean our air and water and are a source of food and medicine, and by making our world less interesting and a more lonely place. This study underscores the importance of laws like the Endangered Species Act and the need for swift action to reverse the disturbing trend of extinction.” 

The study is one of the most comprehensive assessment on species extinction rates. Data on species distribution and impending threats were used to estimate the extinction rate, which is actually considered conservative because of the large number of species still unknown to science.

Acclaimed conservation biologist Dr. Stuart Pimm of Duke University and lead author of the study found that over the last four decades, the number of species under threat of extinction would have been 20 percent higher were it not for conservation efforts. 

“The findings of this study are alarming to say the least,” said Greenwald. “But it also shows we can make a difference if we choose to and should be a clarion call to take action to protect more habitat for species besides our own and to check our own population growth and consumption.” 

Further noted in the study, some groups of species are going extinct at even greater rates, such as freshwater fish in North America, due to the degradation of rivers and lakes from dams, pollution, spread of non-native species and direct destruction. One example of this is the continent’s slugs and snails—their current extinction rate is nearly 10,000 times their natural rate.

“There can be no question that we’re fouling our own nest, but what this study shows is that this has consequences not just for us, but for the millions of other species with which we share this world,” said Greenwald.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

To 10 New Species for 2014

Small Wild Cats Face Big Threats, Including Lack of Conservation Funds

100 Rarest Birds in the World

-------- 

David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less
Trending
An Amazon.com Inc. worker walks past a row of vans outside a distribution facility on Feb. 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California. PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.

Read More Show Less
Xiulin Ruan, a Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering, holds up his lab's sample of the whitest paint on record. Purdue University / Jared Pike

Scientists at the University of Purdue have developed the whitest and coolest paint on record.

Read More Show Less

Less than three years after California governor Jerry Brown said the state would launch "our own damn satellite" to track pollution in the face of the Trump administration's climate denial, California, NASA, and a constellation of private companies, nonprofits, and foundations are teaming up to do just that.

Read More Show Less