How We Are Accelerating the 6th Mass Extinction
The 6th Mass Extinction is an urgent and critical event occurring in nature, caused by humans and other external influences. To put it in perspective, the average extinction event has occurred at a rate of one species per decade. The 6th Mass Extinction, by contrast, has been estimated to be occurring at a rate between a hundred and a thousand times that of the normal rate. It is being described by many researchers as the most rapid step decline in the history of the Earth which has already wiped out more species than any event before it.
This rapid decline of global biodiversity is having an especially profound effect on the environment. The loss of biodiversity can lead to a wide range of cascading effects on an ecosystem. This has the potential to reduce and absorb resources necessary for human life, leaving us facing unexpected and dire consequences. We can not take global wildlife and wildlife habitats for granted.
Causes of the 6th Mass Extinction
The current 6th mass extinction event is largely caused by humans:
- Habitat destruction and degradation- overgrazing, industrial development, and urbanization are drastically reducing the amount of usable land available, destroying habitats, causing fragmentation, and preventing species from mating.
- Overexploitation and poaching- both for food and for use in the illegal pet and bushmeat trades, humans are rapidly reducing global populations of animals.
- Invasive species- introduced species, often through human efforts, disrupt native species in an area, eliminating their food sources, competition for resources, and physical damage.
- Pollution- due to toxic chemicals, waste, and runoff, pollution has caused a decline in species, especially aquatic species like coral. Additionally, ocean acidification due to increased levels of carbon dioxide has been damaging fragile marine ecology.
- Climate change- long-term increases in global temperature have caused species to move or decline, while changes in precipitation levels and intensity creates new problems.
The 6th Mass Extinction’s Impact on Human Life
The implications of the extinction of so many species are as profound as they are alarming. They range from fewer resources in the environment to our overall quality of life. Here are some specific areas where humans may feel the impact:
- Food sustainability- a decline in animal species directly impacts our food security and food availability. This means a decline in the number of species available to eat, more disease, and more reliance on crop production.
- Health- most medicine, from aspirin to cancer treatments, is derived from plants and animals. It is estimated that only 10% of known plants have even been analyzed for medicinal use, meaning that species extinction could lead to new and unknown health problems.
- Quality of life- with fewer plants and animals, our environment will become less vibrant, and less hospitable overall. species extinction has been linked to declining levels of happiness, as the environment becomes less stimulating.
How We Can Reverse the Extinction Trend
The 6th Mass Extinction is an alarming event, but there is still hope. Here are a few steps we can take to reverse the trend of species extinction:
- Education- understanding the issues, causes, and implications of species extinction is the first step to finding solutions. Education about biology, conservation, and the environment can help to create informed, conscientious people and communities.
- Legislation- new laws can be put in place to prevent further habitat destruction and promote practices that support wildlife and the environment. These laws should include the protection of endangered species, environmental protections and restrictions, and improved land management and sustainable practices.
- Conservation- direct action has to be taken to conserve and protect species and habitats. This includes habitat and species restoration via conservation projects, captive breeding programs, and education initiatives.
- Technology- technological advances can help to monitor and protect species, while also increasing the effectiveness of conservation efforts. This includes satellite monitoring of the environment, improved tracking of illegal activities and poaching, and improved species identification programs.
The 6th Mass Extinction is an alarming and concerning event. The rapid decline of global biodiversity is having a profound effect, not just on nature, but also on the environment and our own quality of life. We can not take global wildlife and wildlife habitats for granted. We must work together to reverse this trend, by educating ourselves and others, by passing effective legislation, by engaging in conservation projects, and by leveraging the power of technology to monitor and protect species. We still have time to act, but we must act now if we are to prevent any further degradation of life on Earth.