Update on background extinction rates

There are several similar articles available today, but I like this one. In the first paragraph there is a link to another Guardian piece, from that one you can download the science paper itself. The authors have been conservative in their study, so probably things will actually be worse than this. 🙁


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About Michael White

Marine Zoologist specialising in endangered species and remote atoll research. I use modern science and Ethnozoology to provide culturally meaningful conservation projects, with a special focus on the sustainable use of natural resources and food sovereignty. "Tread gently on the Earth"

2 thoughts on “Update on background extinction rates

  1. Venkatasamy Rama Krishna

    Indeed Mike, there has been a series of articles regarding the same recently, and since climate change appears to occupy the minds of most right now, this other important problem appears to escape attention. The consequences: “in the aftermath of past mass extinctions, the living world took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to rediversify.” Now, what we need to be most concerned about is that once biodiversity on the planet collapses, will the human species survive?

    1. Michael White Post author

      Thanks Ven. Yes, I’ve thought about these things for years; as have many Hollywood films. So what was probably once just science fiction is now a glaring reality. As you mentioned in your other replies (Papal Encyclical and air pollution as a killer) it seems likely that we will not do anything to help ourselves survive. We will continue in our daily lives: shopping, driving, going to work and consuming ~ until there’s nothing left. Seeing as how most people don’t think seriously about global impacts, but they are very good at whining when things have gone wrong (the blame game) ~ I don’t hold out for a big change in attitude soon.

      But we do see a rise in awareness (protest marches and e-petitions), and that is global. Our two main underpinning difficulties are the money-based economy (consumerism) and supposedly ‘representative government’. The latter legislates in favour of the former. Taking that to its logical conclusion we will consume until there is nothing left to consume. Before that though there will be protectionism by the powerful to prevent the poorer & weaker from consuming. This is already happening. In 2014 UNHCR said that 1 in every 122 people were displaced (war, famine, drought, unstable societies etc), today there are 60-70 million refugees being processed. Europe, Africa and Asia all have migrant disasters in progress. Also we see increased use of ‘gated communities’: whether a national security fence, a ghetto, or just a private apartment block complete with guards.

      I think water is the one to watch: that comment about Americans using 250 times their fair share is eye-opening. California is the leading edge of water scarcity for the US, although nothing new for Africa and southern Europe.

      Coming back to your wider point about the aftermath of extinction ~ it probably does take millions of years to find a new balance. The first extinction ~ when oxygen appeared ~ was lethal to all the dominant life forms (anaerobic), so evolution may have been slow, athough life-span in the small organisms is shorter. Another time life on land became untenable, those adapting to aquatic life evolved. Another time saw the oceans become uninhabitable ~ those species moving to the land survived. The dinosaur extinction probably took some centuries to occur: there is good evidence now to suggest that temperature-related sex determination (TSD) played a role in this. Over time species became single sex, because of climatic conditions, and passed away. Turtles and crocodilians still use this process. Birds came out of the collapsing dinosaur line, yet interestingly don’t use TSD. Probably, asusual, the cockroaches and bacteria will survive.

      I do find it strange that people do not think about our future. 🙂

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