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 30, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 30, 2018
The Science Behind Cat Landings
You’ve undoubtedly heard the old wives’ tale that cats always land on four feet, and while they do most of the time, there’s a lot more t...
OCT 31, 2018
Videos
OCT 31, 2018
How many times can you skip a stone?
What's your record for how many times you can skip a stone? Turns out the current world record for Most Consecutive Skips on the Water is 88 skips in o...
NOV 07, 2018
Videos
NOV 07, 2018
The Threat of Neglected Tropical Diseases
Did you know that around one billion people suffer from a neglected tropical disease?...
NOV 20, 2018
Videos
NOV 20, 2018
A Major Grant Aims to Improve our Understanding of Age-related Cognitive Decline
The American Heart Association has teamed up with the Allen Initiative in Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment to award the Salk Institute $19.2 million....
DEC 05, 2018
Videos
DEC 05, 2018
Promising Results From Early Trials of Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Anemia
More than 90,000 Americans and millions of people around the world have SCA....
DEC 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2018
After a Slight Delay, SpaceX's Christmas Delivery Arrives at the ISS
Three days after the official launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday with a sp...
Loading Comments...