Earth is on the Brink of its Sixth Mass Extinction

Sep 19th, 2017 • Category: Animals, Science & the Environment

By Amzad Ali, age 13

Lonesome George was the last Pinta Island Tortoise, and his species went extinct when he died in 2012.  Scientists estimate between 10,000 and 100,000 species go extinct each year.  Wikimedia Commons / Arturo de Frias Marques

Lonesome George was the last Pinta Island Tortoise, and his species went extinct when he died in 2012. Scientists estimate between 10,000 and 100,000 species go extinct each year. Wikimedia Commons / Arturo de Frias Marques

A growing body of scientific research suggests that Earth is undergoing its sixth mass extinction. Mass extinction is defined as the total elimination of multiple species within a short period of time. The fifth mass extinction, over 65 million years ago, resulted in the loss of 75 percent of Earth’s life, including the dinosaurs.

Climate change and the destruction of rainforests and other habitats for farmland have reduced animal and plant populations around the world.

Scientists are looking at species whose populations have been shrinking, not just those on the verge of extinction. They found that up to 50 percent of the world’s animals have died in the last few decades. For example, there are fewer than 25,000 lions in the wild, down from around 400,000 in 1950.

Human life is in danger, too. If species go extinct, the food chain will be disrupted. For instance, if an animal is missing from a food chain, all of the animals above it lose their source of food, which endangers their species.

However, there are solutions that may prevent or slow down the extinction process, such as reducing carbon emissions, which are toxins released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

“The good news is, we still have time,” said Gerardo Ceballos, a co-author of a paper on the sixth extinction. “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.”

A growing body of scientific research suggests that Earth is undergoing its sixth mass extinction. Mass extinction is defined as the total elimination of multiple species within a short period of time. The fifth mass extinction, over 65 million years ago, resulted in the loss of 75 percent of Earth’s life, including the dinosaurs.
Climate change and the destruction of rainforests and other habitats for farmland have reduced animal and plant populations around the world.
Scientists are looking at species whose populations have been shrinking, not just those on the verge of extinction. They found that up to 50 percent of the world’s animals have died in the last few decades. For example, there are fewer than 25,000 lions in the wild, down from around 400,000 in 1950.
Human life is in danger, too. If species go extinct, the food chain will be disrupted. For instance, if an animal is missing from a food chain, all of the animals above it lose their source of food, which endangers their species.
However, there are solutions that may prevent or slow down the extinction process, such as reducing carbon emissions, which are toxins released into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.
“The good news is, we still have time,” said Gerardo Ceballos, a co-author of a paper on the sixth extinction. “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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