domingo, 21 de junho de 2015

Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction

By Ceballos et al.

Science Advances, 19 Jun 2015

The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass  extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction  rates are far above the “background”rates prevailing in the five previous mass xtinctions. Earlierestimates of extinction rates have  been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely  
conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We  then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species asextinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under ourassumptions, which would tend tominimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone  extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already  under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is  rapidly closing.

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