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Is Earth On The Brink Of A Sixth Mass Extinction?

Is Earth On The Brink Of A Sixth Mass Extinction?

If centuries of archaeological research and fossil finds are accurate, the Earth has experienced periods of global climate change and major die-offs of many of it’s mammal species several times before.

According to a recent study by UC Berkeley and Penn State University researchers, however, humans might have helped to bring about the planet’s sixth mass extinction even faster thanks to habitat destruction, pollution and now global warming.

The study, which looked at over 30 million years of archaeological record, found that between 15 and 42 percent of the mammals in North America disappeared after humans arrived.

Compared to extinction rates demonstrated in other periods of Earth’s history, this means that North American species are already half way to to an epic extinction, similar to the one that eliminated the dinosaurs.

“We are seeing a lot of geographic range reductions that are of a greater magnitude than we would expect, and we are seeing loss of subspecies and even a few species,” Anthony Barnosky told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So it looks like we are going into another one of these extinction events.”

Although human beings weren’t around to contribute to the dissolvement of the other extinction periods, scientists have found that exponential population growth and the systematic destruction of vital wildlife habitats are helping this mass occur long before it was expected.

The historical record shows that while many species have been able to withstand these environmental changes in the past, and maintain healthy numbers. It was only when humans start to reproduce rapidly and swallow up the natural ecosystems with buildings and farms that the numbers started to decline at an unnatural rate.

The SF Chronicle article pointed out that “at least 50 species went extinct in North America soon after humans arrived on the continent 13,000 years ago. Among the mammals that disappeared were California tapirs, peccaries, lions and cheetahs, llamas, ox, horses, mammoths and mastodons.”

Depsite the bleakness of the findings of this study, scientists stressed that it is still not too late to curb the negative effects of human society on North American mammal species.

“If we redouble our conservation efforts, we can stem the tide of extinctions and have those species around in the future,” Barnosky said. “There is a bit of urgency here. By demonstrating that we have already lost 15 to 42 percent of mammalian diversity, the question is, do we really want to lose any more? I think the answer to that is pretty obvious.”

Polar bears, corals, sharks, and tuna are all in danger of extinction, yet international trade of these rare animals continues, often unregulated. Please consider taking action on behalf of wildlife and the environment by signing one of these Care2 Petitions today!

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Image Credit: bcsengage.wikispaces.com

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124 comments

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12:56PM PST on Feb 2, 2010

this is so depressing to think about.

8:12AM PST on Feb 2, 2010

we cant keep going this way the planet that is home to so Meany species,humans being the worst of all,cant sustain the pressures that is put on it,when you think 50 year's ago the population of earth was 2.5 billion,now it is all most 7 with the warming of the planet alone it is happening so fast what is going to happen when the rivers all dry up,i believe that man is headed for mass extinction and with that then all of the animals might then flourish as they once did.

10:56AM PST on Jan 11, 2010

We may be driving species into extinction, but that does not mean we cannot redeem ourselves.

3:53PM PST on Jan 6, 2010

You got that right Mark O.I believe,not think,thats what happened to Mars.And who knows about anyother solar system we've destroyed!!!But yes our so called beautiful planet does have its way of cleansing itself.So say good bye to the human race.We are only here temporarily anyways.Tell we figure out how to get off this planet to go destroy more things that come into are path!!!!

12:20PM PST on Jan 3, 2010

What if, just what if all this is SUPPOSED to happen? What if our prime directive, main purpose and subconscious yearnings are to destroy planets? ..and what if Earth is not our first such buffet of life?

What if we are simply a form of MOLD that consumes whole ecosystems.

What if?

6:58AM PST on Jan 3, 2010

what we are seeing has been going on for years and noone has tried to correct the problems yet..

10:59AM PST on Jan 2, 2010

I believe that global warming has absolutely nothing to do with this. There have been countless incidents where the Earth has experienced global cooling and warming situations when people have nothing to do with it. The only reason that animals are dying is because of human carelessness; extinction should not be part of the background. Obviously, people have to do something about the environment. But bringing global warming into a situation where only people are harming the animals is an exaggeration. Before more animals die, people have to start focusing on preserving the magnificent creatures that we have on this SHARED Earth.

6:04PM PST on Dec 31, 2009

We need to stop caring about our selves and looking out for animals at every turn we can. We need to realise that once they are gone we cant get them back and we are losing something close to us. Once one animal is extinct something bad happens to its environment

4:47PM PST on Dec 31, 2009

We are so concerned about our own little problems we do not see the bigger picture.

11:06AM PST on Dec 31, 2009

santanita, it is because of the obtuse attitudes of people like you that the world hasn't made greater strides to preserve our environment. obviously you can't see or read or listen. so if you're going to stick to that tired old rhetoric about how extinction and environmental disasters are just part of the scenery, at least keep your non-opinions of this nature to yourself while those of us who can see what is happening bust our asses to slow it down.

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