A Sixth Mass Extinction ‘Tsunami’ Is Coming, But It Can Be Avoided

The Earth is now on the verge of a sixth mass extinction, and few scientists doubt that humanity is to blame. Despite the challenges we face, “what I want to encourage is that there is still something we can do,” says biologist Thomas Lovejoy.

“In contrast to other mass extinctions, one species is responsible for this one, and can be fully aware of it and can actually stop it,” he said in an interview.
Lovejoy, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, who has been called the “father of biodiversity,” recently submitted a paper to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In it, he emphasized the importance of considering all the changes that humans have imposed on the Earth in order to prevent this unprecedented loss of species.

“Humans are genetically engineered to respond to events that directly concern them during the course of evolution,” Lovejoy said. “But we can also look ahead and see in our minds what is actually happening.”

The current situation is that a third of the 27,600 vertebrate species studied are declining, according to a study by another team of scientists posted to PNAS, with some of them considered threatened with extinction. There are many things that I didn’t even think about. Indeed, the Earth is in the throes of extinction, losing about two species per year over the past century – 100 times faster than the “normal” extinction rate. But according to a study published July 10, the apparent loss of animals masks a much larger decline.

“What they often emphasize is that extinction is not the end result,” says Lovejoy. “It’s a process”

While there is an emphasis on tackling direct threats such as poaching and habitat loss to protect the habitats of endangered animals, there is also an emphasis on what is likely to be a ‘community-focused approach’. We must also find ways to deal with the invisible chain reaction, writes Lovejoy.

For example, Lovejoy points to changes in water levels in the Amazon rainforest, which he is familiar with through more than 50 years of field research. More than 50 percent of the world’s largest rainforest is currently protected in some way, but that is “absolutely” not enough to stop species loss.

For example, humans clearing other parts of the forest, often to make room for farms and pastures to supply food, disrupts the cycle of rainfall in the forest, causing evaporation and It is returned to the atmosphere by transpiration by native plants. Protected habitats, home to many of the Amazonian native animals, will still remain.

But at some point—Mr. Lovejoy envisions the loss of more than 20 percent of rainforest to logging—the cycle will culminate, causing a wave of degradation that will extend to much of the protected forest. and

“If we are to take the extinction crisis seriously, we need to look at all these factors and recognize them, and it’s not about saving something before the last one is gone,” Lovejoy said. . “Now is the time to focus on the triggers.”

Researchers writing for PNAS see the global loss of animal diversity as “extinction.”
This is not a term thrown lightly by lead author Gerardo Ceballos and his colleagues.

“As scientists, we must be very careful not to be alarmists and not to say things that are not scientifically supported,” said Ceballos, a biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. However, the results of their analysis could be powerful words.

“It would be immoral not to communicate how dire the situation is based on the data we have derived,” added Ceballos. His research team also conducted a detailed study of 177 well-known vertebrates. All animal habitats studied have declined by a minimum of 30 percent since the early 20th century. Over the same period, 40 percent of animals have experienced 80 percent or more of their habitat loss.

“I hope you’re wrong,” Ceballos said of the team’s findings.

In a PNAS essay, Lovejoy said, “Global problems like these call for bold solutions, such as the Half-Earth Project, where ‘human aspirations are incorporated into nature’.” It has said.

Such an effort might be an “unlikely pipe dream,” Lovejoy said, but “there must be a way to do something about it.”

Climate change is another process that can undermine functioning ecosystems. However, if we begin to restore forests, wetlands, and other habitats we have abandoned, we could replace global warming by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius). . This is due to additional carbon emissions from protected areas. The environmental goal of the 2015 Paris Protocol is to keep the temperature rise below 2°C compared to the pre-industrial average.

“(If we want to preserve these areas) we need to get more benefits.

Not only will this restoration effort restore vital links to wildlife habitat, but humans will also benefit from things like better water and cleaner air.

“It’s also interesting that everyone can get involved in planting trees and restoring wetlands,” says Lovejoy. “It’s just like wartime kitchen gardens (gardens planted with vegetables to make up for food shortages), where everyone can actually contribute and it no longer seems like an unsolvable problem.”

“I hope that today’s younger generation will realize [by their actions] that they can make a wonderful contribution not only to their descendants, but to the future of humanity and life on Earth.”

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