NOV 04, 2016 03:39 PM PDT

Wake up call: We are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction


According to the geologic time scale, Earth has already experienced five mass extinctions. The most famous mass extinction came from space, but the biggest might have been because of carbon dioxide. Cataclysms, whether the asteroid that ended the dinosaurs' reign or the volcanism that may have caused the Great Dying, drove the first five mass extinctions in Earth's history, in which 75% of more of the planet's life died out. But what's happening now?

"Anthropocene defaunation," or the sixth mass extinction that's happening to the planet now is because of us - humans. Scientists can't be sure of the current die-off rate, perhaps because much of it is happening to beetles and other insects that are notoriously overlooked. But according to a study in Science, the total number of such invertebrates fell by half over the past 35 years while the human population doubled.

So what do we do about this? There are several methods for going about conservation legislation. The most successful method involves protecting keystone species - those species such as wolves and ochre sea stars that hold together entire ecosystems because of the roles that they play. Conservation programs for these species, which can include protection laws and reintroduction processes, are potentially more important than protection of those cute charismatic megafauna like elephants, tigers, and polar bears. (Although protection of such animals can also be an umbrella protection for many other not-as-cute species like in the case of pandas and certain endangered ferns!)

Sources: Scientific American
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 21, 2019
Cardiology
OCT 21, 2019
Avoiding Sugar In Unexpected Places
Most people are under the false impression that what they eat is healthy. There is such a disconnect between the processed, prepackaged foods we eat today ...
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
How NASA's Dragonfly Mission Will Teach Us More About Titan
If you haven’t already heard, NASA is planning to launch a new mission dubbed Project Dragonfly, which will study Saturn’s moon Titan to learn...
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
Here's What We've Learned About Jupiter From Juno So Far
It seems like it wasn’t too long ago that NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter, but don’t be fooled, as the spacecraft has...
OCT 21, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 21, 2019
Artificial "Bug Eyes" Made of Nanoparticles and Liquid Marbles
The term compound eye refers to the unique visual organs that can be found in many insects (hence the nickname "bug eyes"), as well as certain sp...
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
How Astronomers Determine the Universe's Age
The universe is so old and so large that the Earth is but an insignificant speck of dust by comparison. Astronomers are always trying to make sense of the...
OCT 21, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 21, 2019
Deep-Sea Critters Opportunistically Munch on a Sunken Whale Carcass
The ocean floor can be a lifeless and desolate place to be; so much so that marine animals have taken notice. It’s not often that you’ll find f...
Loading Comments...