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The sixth mass extinction may already be occurring on Earth

The sixth mass extinction may already be occurring on Earth

Earth may be on its way to its sixth mass extinction, but unlike the previous mass extinction, this one will be exclusively due to human action. So says a new study led by the University of Hawaii, which looked at an extensive list of endangered species, including invertebrates — of little consideration in other analyses.

Life on our planet has already gone through five major extinction events, and although they were severe, they were all of them Because of natural events. But the new study, in addition to indicating that the sixth mass extinction event has already begun, leaves no doubt about the human influence on the process.

On the left, the number of cataloged species, and on the right, the proportion of species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – Invertebrates of Little Concern (Photo: Reproduction/Robert Coy et al.)

The study’s lead author, Robert Coy, said rising extinction rates and Reducing the abundance of biodiversity They are all well documented. “But some deny that these phenomena represent a mass extinction,” he added.

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According to Cowie, this denial is based on the tendency to face this crisis only for mammalian species and the birds, but when you consider the invertebrates of the account – which make up the majority of biodiversity – the scenario is even more dire.

Using historical data on the species of land snails and slugs, the researchers estimated that since 1500, the planet has already lost 7.5% to 13% of the two million species known to date – the equivalent of 150,000 to 260,000 organisms.

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endangered species

For the study authors, the inclusion of invertebrates in the analysis was crucial to confirming that we are, in fact, witnessing the onset of the sixth mass extinction. They also highlighted that marine and terrestrial species are affected in different ways.

Recently extinct mollusk species in Rurutu, one of the Austral Islands (Photo: Reproduction / O. Gargominy / A. Sartori / MNHN)

Island species, such as those that inhabit the Hawaiian Islands, are affected more than those that inhabit the continents. Moreover, for the authors, the rate of plant extinction appears to be lower than that of terrestrial animals.

The researchers also said the initiatives have succeeded in preserving the “most attractive” species, leaving many others behind. really Other initiatives It is not sufficient to reverse the general trend of extinction initiated by the human race.

Coy said that denying the crisis and accepting it without reacting – or even pushing it forward – means giving up the shared responsibility of humanity. “And it clears the way for the Earth to continue its sad trajectory toward the sixth mass extinction,” he thought.

The study was published in the scientific journal Biological Reviews.

source: Biological Reviews, via zipper