Tag Archives | Mass extinction

There have been five mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Now we’re facing a sixth.

Extinction IntensityCheery stuff from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. Must be the snowpocalypse that’s supposed to hit D.C. tomorrow…

There have been five mass extinction events in Earth’s history. In the worst one, 250 million years ago, 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species died off. It took millions of years to recover.

Nowadays, many scientists are predicting that we’re on pace for a sixth mass extinction. The world’s species are already vanishing at an unnaturally rapid rate. And humans are altering the Earth’s landscape in far-reaching ways: We’ve hunted animals like the great auk to extinction. We’ve cleared away broad swaths of rain forest. We’ve transported species from their natural habitats to new continents. We’ve pumped billions of tons of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere and oceans, transforming the climate.

Those changes are pushing more species to the brink. A 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species faced an increased risk of extinction this century if the planet keeps warming (though scientists are still debating these exact numbers, with some going far higher).

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The Sixth Mass Extinction Is Upon Us: Can Humans Survive?

large planet of the apes blu-ray11Annalee Newitz writes at the Daily Beast/Newsweek:

Over the past four years, bee colonies have undergone a disturbing transformation. As helpless beekeepers looked on, the machinelike efficiency of these communal insects devolved into inexplicable disorganization. Worker bees would fly away, never to return; adolescent bees wandered aimlessly in the hive; and the daily jobs in the colony were left undone until honey production stopped and eggs died of neglect. Colony collapse disorder, as it is known, has claimed roughly 30 percent of bee colonies every winter since 2007.

If bees go extinct, their loss will trigger an extinction domino effect, because crops from apples to broccoli rely on these insects for pollination. At the same time, over a third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction, and Harvard evolutionary biologist and conservationist E.O. Wilson estimates that 27,000 species of all kinds go extinct per year.

Are we in the first act of a mass extinction that will end in the death of millions of plant and animal species across the planet, including us?

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