While it’s frightening, our home is now in the midst of its 6th mass extinction endangered species. Archeologists and other experts warn that this is the sixth wave of extinctions of both plants and animals within the last half-billion years. Since the loss of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, our planet is currently experiencing the worst spate of species extinction.
Extinction has always been a natural phenomenon. It occurs at a natural rate of approximately 1-5 species annually. However, scientists warn that the planet is now losing plant and animal species at up 1,000 times the ‘natural rate’ of extinction. It could be a frightening future, with about 30% to 50% of species possibly expected to be extinct by the mid-21st century.
The impact of human activities
The past waves of mass extinctions were caused by natural events such as volcanic eruptions, asteroid strikes, and climate shifts. However, the current threat of certain species extinction is entirely caused by human activities. A recent study revealed that 99% of the currently endangered species are at risk from various human activities, especially those driving loss of habitat, global warming, and the introduction of exotic species.
The rate of change in our planet’s biosphere is rising. Besides, every specie’s extinction is likely to result in the extinction of other plants and animals bound to it in the complex ecology web. Unless we do something positive, it is beyond any reasonable doubt that the number of species extinction will snowball in the coming hundreds of years as ecosystems continue to unravel.
Some shocking numbers
Biologists and environmental scientists estimate that over 1,200 species worldwide face threats to their survival in over 90 percent of their current habitats. Scientists believe that unless a robust conservation intervention strategy is implemented, these species will certainly face extinction.
Scientists at Australia’s University of Queensland and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) recently mapped threats face by 5,457 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians. The study’s primary objective was to establish the sections of a particular species’ habit ranger are severely affected by the already known drivers of loss of biodiversity.
The study revealed that 1,237 species (about a quarter of all the species assessed) were impacted by different threats across over 90 percent of their habitat distribution. What’s worse, for 7% (395) species were found to be impacted by at least a relevant threat in all their habitats.
The reality is; wildlife no longer has an easy go. In 2018, the world lost the last male northern white rhino. On the other hand, the vaquita porpoise continues its slide towards die-off, and poachers continue to target pangolins and other endangered species out there.
What do we do?
Simply put, species diversity strengthens ecosystem resilience. This offers ecological communities the specific scope they require to withstand natural stress. Therefore, while environmental justifiably channel their resources on species-rich ecosystems like coral reefs and rainforests (of cause, they have a lot to lose), our planet is in a dire need for a comprehensive strategy that could save biodiversity. In addition to saving forests, the strategy should also focus on habitat types with few species such as tundra, grasslands, and even polar waters. For these habitats, any loss of species is irreversibly devastating.
As much as environmental conservationists’ and scientists’ concern over extinction focuses on globally lost species, much of the biodiversity’s benefits tend to take place at a more local level. Thus, conserving local populations is an effective way of ensuring genetic diversity, a critical factor for a species’ survival.