Don't say we weren't warned – yesterday several studies published in the journal Science advised that we're in currently in the middle of the Earth's sixth mass extinction. While the human population is flourishing (no doubt part of the problem), other species are in rapid decline.
In the past 35 years the human race has doubled its numbers to 7 billion, while the numbers of invertebrates (insects, worms) has dropped by 45%, an alarming decline that scientists say has a grave impact on the future of the planet. The study reported that over 320 species have disappeared over the last 500 years and vast numbers of larger animals such as orangutans and gibbons are disappearing from huge, protected areas of land.
The difference between this extinction and the previous five that were possibly caused by asteroids and volcanic eruptions, is that this one is man-made, something known as "anthropocene defaunation". This term refers to the human contribution to the widespread eradication of animal life through the flattening of forests and disregard for the habitats of animals that we share the planet with.
Destroying these ecosystems across the planet can severely disrupt our livelihoods. Speaking to USA Today, lead author Robert Dirzo said: "Habitat destruction will facilitate hunting and poaching, and species will have difficulty in finding refuge given land use change and climatic disruption."
Ever wondered why the 21st century feels like a long, drawn out apocalypse? It's because we're right in the middle of making it happen. As Dirzo says in the journal: "If we are unable to end or reverse the rate of the animals' loss, it will mean more for our own future than a broken heart or an empty forest."
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