Scientists said that the Earth is waiting for another great extinction
19 October, 2018, 05:54 | Author: Darnell Taylor
After all of those millennia of evolution, it took barely 100,000 years for one relatively young member of the group - humans - to bring everything crashing down.
The team of researchers behind the report from Aarhus University and the University of Gothenburg calculated that the extinctions are moving too rapidly for evolution to keep up.
At least not according to a new study that concluded we're wiping out so many of them so quickly that it will take millions of years for them to recover.
The researchers suggests that the restoration of all branches of mammals disappear in the next 50 years, it will take about three million years.
They argue that Earth entering its sixth mass extinction, an event in which the planet's environments change to the point that life can't continue as it should and most animal and plant species die. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature predicts that 99.9% of critically endangered species and 67% of endangered species will be lost within the next 100 years.
Evolution is the planet's defense mechanism against the loss of biodiversity. But it takes a long time for new species to fill the gaps - and that process is far slower than the rate at which humans are causing mammals to go extinct. When habitats and climates change, species which die out are replaced by newly-emerging species.
The analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, specifically focused on mammals that now exist as well as those which went extinct as humans spread across the globe, but it provides insight on the broader biodiversity crisis. After combining that data with information about extinctions they expect in the coming years, they used advanced simulations to see how long it could take for extinction on Earth to be surpassed by evolution. But even in that best-case scenario, the timeline depends on how quickly mammals start recovering.
"Large mammals, or megafauna, such as giant sloths and sabre-toothed tigers, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, were highly evolutionarily distinct", Davis said in a statement. The new research calculates the total unique evolutionary history that has been lost as a result at a startling 2.5bn years. The upcoming sixth mass extinction, however, is largely the work of humans. Then they calculated diversity loss since the Last Interglacial about 130,000 years ago, a preanthropogenic baseline, and determined how likely it is now threatened species will go extinct in the near future.
Asian elephants, one of only two surviving species of a once mighty mammalian order that included mammoths and mastodons, have less than a 33 per cent chance of surviving past this century.
Professor Jens-Christian Svenning also from Aarhus University said: "Although we once lived in a world of giants: giant beavers, giant armadillos, giant deer, etc., we now live in a world that is becoming increasingly impoverished of large wild mammalian species".
'The few remaining giants, such as rhinos and elephants, are in danger of being wiped out very rapidly'.
While the findings are sobering, researchers hope that their work can be used to help prioritize conservation work to protect evolutionarily unique species most at risk but it's still going to be a massive undertaking on our part.
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