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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

6th Extinction

6th Extinction

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, May 7, 2019/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, birds, marine life, sustainability, environment, climate change

                              Coral & Marine Environments (credit: UN Assessment on Biodiversity)

There have been five mass extinctions recorded in the geologic fossil record over the past 500 million years. A 6th Extinction is now in progress in less than 50 years. 

The extinction of the dinosaurs was caused a space impactor being the most well known. The consequence of that asteroid was to end their reign allowing mammals to evolve and replace the giant reptiles. We are now entering a 6th mass extinction and humans ourselves are the "impactors". This recognized in the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same title. Now, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has also evaluated the state of global biodiversity or the collective assemblage of life on land, in the oceans, and soils and its role in maintaining stable ecosystems. Their findings are hardly encouraging. Whether referring to plant pollinators like honey bees; new medicines derived from plants or micro-organisms; and ecosystem services like sustainable water supplies, we need biodiversity if for no other reason than it supports stable environments that sustain us. 

The new report is based on the review of nearly 15,000 scientific and other sources on biodiversity, for the first time at such scale. According to the Chairman of the assessment, Sir Robert Watson from the UK noted:

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide.”

The biodiversity assessment details five threats that singly or in combination are causing the potential loss of 1 million species of plants, animals, insects, and micro-organisms. These threats include:

changes to landscapes and oceans from deforestation, dredging, and conversion to iindustrial farming; over-exploitation of fisheries and forests without allowing recovery; the illicit international trade of endangered plants and animals; industrial land and water pollution; introduction of invasive species; and climate change.

                   Tropical Deforestation and Overuse of Agrochemicals (credit: IPBES)

The consequences of the five threats are a 'toxic brew' but such reports act as important wake-up calls. Translating the collected findings into action like changes of institutional polices, proactive efforts for environmental restoration, or changes in individual consumption habits takes work. Hopefully, the biodiversity assessment will spur those responses.



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