A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has come out authored by Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Erlich and Rodolfo Dirzo.
This is a really important piece of work investigating how the “sixth mass extinction” of species is proceeding and further raising the alarm about the great danger.
The study’s significance page says,
“The strong focus on species extinctions, a critical aspect of the contemporary pulse of biological extinction, leads to a common misimpression that Earth’s biota is not immediately threatened, just slowly entering an episode of major biodiversity loss. This view overlooks the current trends of population declines and extinctions. Using a sample of 27,600 terrestrial vertebrate species, and a more detailed analysis of 177 mammal species, we show the extremely high degree of population decay in vertebrates, even in common “species of low concern.” Dwindling population sizes and range shrinkages amount to a massive anthropogenic erosion of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services essential to civilization. This ‘biological annihilation’ underlines the seriousness for humanity of Earth’s ongoing sixth mass extinction event.”
Further, the abstract states, “humanity needs to address anthropogenic population extirpation and decimation immediately”.
The study has been somewhat, at least, controversial, with some saying it overstates the danger, (other right-wing and fascist forces just attacking its supposed “alarmism”) but I think it makes a strong case that the danger is very real and lies not just in extinctions-(for example 200 species of vertebrates going extinct in last century)- but also the vast decline in numbers of individuals of species and populations of species, and their ranges, that is rapidly advancing today.
There is debate over the study’s “strong language” and especially its use of the term, “biological annihilation”. According to the UK Guardian’s popular piece on the study, Ceballos, who led the work told them, “The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”
Actually “biological annihilation” I think is quite accurate and entirely appropriate to describe what’s happening. This is a very worrisome wake-up call about the need to address this, as well as understand and move against the causes of this-which I view as a capitalist system and resulting world culture unable to control continual expansion and annihilation of nature.
It’s up to us to save the planet, its species and its people.