Ever since life was born on earth, it follows a cycle of depletion of former species and the augmentation of novel species. The gloomy side of this process is that the arrival of these succeeding species is related to the extinction of preceding ones.
Mass extinction refers to the phenomenon in which the pace of evolution of new species falls behind the pace of extenuating species such that the equity of nature gets disrupted in a brief geological interval of time. Ever since the diversity of species flourished on earth around 540 million years ago, the planet has witnessed at least five major mass extinctions due to extensive alteration in its biosphere. These changes may be attributed to asteroid impacts, global cooling, global warming, changes in sea level, acid rains, volcanic eruptions, etc. that accelerated the process of evolution by replacing older “less” dominant species with newer “more” dominant ones.
Are we stepping into the Sixth Mass Extinction?
The “Anthropocene”-the Human era, has evoked the occurrence of sixth mass extinction and that too at a rate which is 100 to 1000 times more than the other Big Five. The contributing factors being hunting, burning of fossil fuels, industrial and agricultural pollution, overexploitation of resources, global warming, deforestation, and other activities executed by the human race have disrupted the natural harmony of nature and its beings. Thus, the ongoing sixth mass extinction is estimated to be the most threatening and irreversible event in history which would have alarming impacts on the ecosystem.
Facts and figures about Sixth Mass Extinction
- It is estimated that about 60% of the vertebrate species have vanished from the ecosystem since 1970, while human species have increased twice.
- A recent study found that every year total insect mass is decreasing at the rate of 2.5% and thus, we may not have any insects left in our strata by 2119.
- The red list of The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) pointed out that beyond 27% of species on earth are on the brink of extinction. This includes 25% of mammals, 40% of amphibians, 14% of birds, and 33% of coral reefs.
- In the early 50 years, around 17% of the total Amazon forest has been wrecked due to deforestation and livestock farming by human beings.
- Across the world, 18 million acres of forest vanish every year.
- While the absorption of almost 93% of excess greenhouse gases by oceans renders several marine species vulnerable, it also leads to a rise in sea level threatening land species as well.
- We are likely to reach the verge of mass extinction in the coming 240–540 years if the level of extinction of species continues at the same rate.
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