Scientists previously warned us of the sixth mass extinction lurking. Only that doomsday scenario would no longer lurk: we are in the middle of it. And it’s accelerating.
According to a recent research report, more than 500 species are at risk of extinction over the next two decades.
The immense loss of biodiversity accelerates the whole process, and the extinction rate among animal species is much higher than thought. This is the conclusion of some American ecologists in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In fact, in 10 to 15 years, it’s too late to change anything.
Currently, 515 terrestrial species are critically endangered. To that end, the scientists relied on figures from the IUCN – an international collaboration that deals with conservation. In concrete terms, this means that there are fewer than 1,000 specimens of the species worldwide. In fact, of half of the 500 animal species, fewer than 250 are alive. Moreover, many of these endangered species live in the same regions. As a result, the extinction of one species can easily spell the definitive end of another species: a domino effect that ultimately endangers the entire ecosystem.
“If you take away a stone, nothing will happen,” said Gerardo Ceballos, a researcher and ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “But if you remove too many stones, your house will collapse.”
The researchers discovered that as many as 543 animals have become extinct in the past 100 years. Without human influence, it would have taken about 10,000 years for so many species to become extinct. If this trend continues, the 515 animals currently critically threatened with extinction will last for up to 15 years. As a result, the actual extinction rate is many times higher than the natural, and also much higher than initially thought.
“The real tragedy is that we have enough knowledge to save animals from extinction,” said ecologist Chris Johnson. “But it is rarely the priority of governments.”