A recent study led by a Stanford biology professor, Rodolfo Dirzo, the 6th mass extinction cycle on our planet has already begun, but this time, it’s entirely human doing. The professor cites a number of contributors that have led to the devastating state of biodiversity today including disposal of corporate waste, abundant use of pesticides and herbicides, water fluoridation and more.
After more than 3.5 billion years, the biodiversity of planet Earth is again at stake. At the end of the study, an international team of scientists have concluded that the loss and decline of animals in the past few centuries is accountable for the beginning of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction.
Although 320 terrestrial animals have become extinct since 1500, today populations of the remaining animal species are showing a significant decline of 25%. The same percentage applies to invertebrate life.
The difference between previous extinctions and the one we are currently faced up to is the fact that the extinctions in the past resulted from planetary transformation or asteroid strikes, while the present die-off is entirely caused by human error.
Humans are Causing the Deaths of Many Species
Professor Dirzo defines the time we live in as an era of “Anthropocene defaunation.” According to the study:
“Across vertebrates, 16 to 33 percent of all species are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. Large animals – described as megafauna and including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and countless other species worldwide – face the highest rate of decline, a trend that matches previous extinction events.
Larger animals tend to have lower population growth rates and produce fewer offspring. They need larger habitat areas to maintain viable populations. Their size and meat mass make them easier and more attractive hunting targets for humans.”
What’s most alarming about the situation is that people still take the planet’s ecosystem for granted. The number of species threatened by extinction may be small, but their die-off will eventually wipe out other species too, and possibly even human beings.
Just for an illustration, when zebras, giraffes, and elephants were removed from a Kenyan landscape, the areas were rapidly populated by rodents. Other side-effects included decrease of soil compaction leading to an enormous growth of shrubs and grasses, which in turn only doubled the rodent population in a very small time period. The abundance of rodents, which carry a number of diseases, including parasites, became a serious threat to human health.
As explained by Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, “Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission.”
“Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”
A fact also worth noting is that while human populations have doubled in the past 35 years (as well as our repulsive environmental behavior), invertebrate species including spiders, butterflies, worms, and bees, are rapidly dying out.
A 45% decrease of invertebrate species has been recorded in the same period that human population has increased. The major cause for the extinction of these species is the loss of habitat and the defamation of ecosystems.
“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” Dirzo said. “Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.”
In the meantime, corporations that are most responsible for the planet’s biodiversity die-off are exempted from any responsibility. That being said, glyphosate is still used, our water is still polluted, and our governments tend to turn a blind eye to all of this.