The human asteroid: Sixth mass extinction underway

June 19, 2015 — If there was any doubt about this before, a recent study has provided further evidence that we have entered a period of mass extinction — the sixth in the Earth's history. Gerardo Ceballos, from Universidad Autónoma de México, and colleagues published a paper in the journal Science Advances in which, through rigorous analysis and conservative assumptions, they examine whether humans are in fact driving a mass extinction. They found that in the last century vertebrates (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians) underwent extinctions at up to 114 times the conservatively estimated background rate. By our calculation, at this rate half of existing vertebrate species would be extinct in 30 centuries, a depletion that could only be replenished through millions of years of evolution. But such a dramatic loss is not inevitable. We can and must take greater action to conserve nature now.

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