What’s a worse problem than climate change? Even though this probably sounds like the start to a bad joke, it’s a serious question with a terrifying answer: mass extinction. Today, we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction with losses of 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate of decline. This rapid loss of species derives from one main source: humans.
Our manipulation of the land for agriculture and development, globalization that brings species to unfamiliar ecosystems, and greenhouse gas emissions that lead to rising global temperatures have all pose serious risks to the other species that inhabit the planet. And yes, it keeps scientists awake at night, tossing and turning--even more than climate change.
These mind-blowing facts show the immensity of the problem and the deeply troubling truth about the state of our planet.
Wildlife has more than halved
Overall wildlife populations have declined by 60% since 1970. That’s more than half of all of the world’s vertebrates lost since Earth Day was first celebrated. Some species are hit harder than others, too. Freshwater species declined by 86% in that time frame.
We’re Outpacing Evolution
At the normal rate of evolutionary replacement, it would take 3 million to 7 million years to replace the species that have been lost during the sixth mass extinction.
Insects: Triggering a Domino Effect
Forty percent of all Insect species are in decline. This puts our food and numerous other species at risk, because insects form the foundation of the food web and they pollinate the flowers of ⅓ of our agricultural crops. The insects at most risk include moths and butterflies, bees, and beetles that help decompose biowaste.
Coral Reef Bleaching
New coral growth has dropped by 89% since the mass bleaching events of 2016 and 2017. The coral species of the Great Barrier Reef cannot breed due to the suffering state of the bleached corals. The problem with loss of coral reef is that this species provides a home to numerous other species of tropical fish. Scientists blame the bleaching events on rising sea temperatures and suggest that climate change must be addressed to see improvement.
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