If the disappearance of invertebrates is included, the Earth is in the process of a Sixth Mass Extinction, caused in this case entirely by human activities. Biologists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France, recently published a comprehensive assessment of the evidence for this ongoing extinction event in the journal Biological Reviews.
“Species extinction rates increased dramatically and the decline in abundance of many populations of animals and plants is well documented, but some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinction,” said in a statement Robert Cowie, lead author of the study and a research professor at the Research Center of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Technologies (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii Manoa.
“This denial is based on a biased view of the crisis that focuses on mammals and birds and ignores invertebrates, which of course make up the vast majority of biodiversity”added.
By extrapolating the estimates obtained for land snails and slugs, Cowie and his co-authors estimated that since 1500, the Earth may have already lost between 7.5 and 13% of the two million known species on Earth: a staggering 150,000 to 260,000 species.
It is confirmed that we are witnessing the beginning
“Including invertebrates was key to confirming that we are indeed witnessing the beginning of the Sixth Mass Extinction in Earth’s history.”, dijo Cowie.
However, the situation is not the same everywhere. Although marine species face significant threats, there is no evidence that the crisis is affecting the oceans to the same extent as the land. On land, island species, such as those on the Hawaiian Islands, are much more affected than continental species. And the extinction rate of plants appears lower than that of land animals.
Unfortunately, along with the denial of the science taking hold in modern society on a variety of issues, the new study notes that some people also deny that the Sixth Extinction has begun.
Furthermore, it is accepted by others as a new and natural evolutionary path, as humans are just another species playing their natural role in Earth’s history. Some even consider that biodiversity should be manipulated solely for the benefit of humanity, but benefit defined by whom? The authors wonder.
“Humans are the only species capable of manipulating the biosphere on a large scale,” Cowie emphasized. “We are not just another species that evolves in the face of external influences. On the contrary, we are the only species that has a conscious choice regarding our future and that of the Earth’s biodiversity ”.
To combat the crisis, several conservation initiatives have been successful for certain charismatic animals. But these initiatives cannot target all species, and they cannot reverse the general trend of species extinction. However, it is essential to continue these efforts, continue to cultivate a wonder for nature and document biodiversity before it disappears, they note.
“Despite the rhetoric about the severity 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,” dijo Cowie. “Denying the crisis, accepting it without reacting or even encouraging it constitutes a derogation from the common responsibility of humanity and paves the way for the Earth to continue on its sad path towards a Sixth Mass Extinction ”.
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