Humanity’s ongoing annihilation of wildlife is cutting down the tree of life, including the branch we are sitting on, according to a stark new analysis.
More than 300 different mammal species have been eradicated by human activities. The new research calculates the total unique evolutionary history that has been lost as a result at a startling 2.5bn years.
Furthermore, even if the destruction of wild areas, poaching and pollution were ended within 50 years and extinction rates fell back to natural levels, it would still take 5-7 million years for the natural world to recover.
Many scientists think a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth has begun, propelled by human destruction of wildlife, and 83% of wild mammals have already gone. The new work puts this in the context of the evolution and extinction of species that occurred for billions of years before modern humans arrived.
“We are doing something that will last millions of years beyond us,” said Matt Davis at Aarhus University in Denmark, who led the new research. “It shows the severity of what we are in right now. We’re entering what could be an extinction on the scale of what killed the dinosaurs.
“That is pretty scary. We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch we are sitting on right now.” Ecosystems around the world have already been significantly affected by the extermination of big animals such as mammoths, he said. [Continue reading…]