​Sixth Mass Extinction Has Started

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March 3, 2011

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Sixth Mass Extinction. Homo-sapiens will be the first single species responsible for a mass extinction at the current rate. Comparing today’s current extinction crisis with the big five that occurred in the past, a new study in Nature finds that while the situation is dire, the choice is ultimately up to humanity.

“If you look only at the critically endangered mammals–those where the risk of extinction is at least 50 percent within three of their generations–and assume that their time will run out, and they will be extinct in 1,000 years, that puts us clearly outside any range of normal, and tells us that we are moving into the mass extinction realm,” explains lead author Anthony D. Barnosky, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology.

Currently, there are 3,565 species listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, however the IUCN has only evaluated around 2.7% of the world’s species.

Barnosky added that if species classified as Endangered and Vulnerable go extinct as well, the world could suffer a sixth mass extinction within 300 to 2,200 years. A recent analysis by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that 20% of the world’s vertebrates were currently threatened with extinction. Most of the world’s invertebrates have not even been surveyed for such threats.

According to Barnoksy, 1-2% of the world’s species have vanished ” in the groups we can look at clearly”, implying that there is still time. But extinctions are still happening faster than they did even during past mass extinctions.