PBS: Extinctions on the Rise

June 4, 2014

Ecowatch:

new landmark study, published yesterday in Science, has found that the current rate of species extinctions is more than 1,000 times greater than their natural rate, calculated from the fossil record and genetic data spanning millions of years, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

The primary cause of this dramatic rise in loss of species is human population growth, habitat loss and increased consumption, as well as uncertainties in predicting future extinctions from the spread of invasive species, diseases and climate change.

“This important study confirms that species are going extinct at a pace not seen in tens of millions of years, and unlike past extinction events, the cause is us,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The loss of species has drastic consequences for us all by degrading ecosystems that clean our air and water and are a source of food and medicine, and by making our world less interesting and a more lonely place. This study underscores the importance of laws like the Endangered Species Act and the need for swift action to reverse the disturbing trend of extinction.”

The study is one of the most comprehensive assessment on species extinction rates. Data on species distribution and impending threats were used to estimate the extinction rate, which is actually considered conservative because of the large number of species still unknown to science.

Acclaimed conservation biologist Dr. Stuart Pimm of Duke University and lead author of the study found that over the last four decades, the number of species under threat of extinction would have been 20 percent higher were it not for conservation efforts.

“The findings of this study are alarming to say the least,” said Greenwald. “But it also shows we can make a difference if we choose to and should be a clarion call to take action to protect more habitat for species besides our own and to check our own population growth and consumption.”

Further noted in the study, some groups of species are going extinct at even greater rates, such as freshwater fish in North America, due to the degradation of rivers and lakes from dams, pollution, spread of non-native species and direct destruction. One example of this is the continent’s slugs and snails—their current extinction rate is nearly 10,000 times their natural rate.

“There can be no question that we’re fouling our own nest, but what this study shows is that this has consequences not just for us, but for the millions of other species with which we share this world,” said Greenwald.

AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says.

The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said study lead author noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.

“We are on the verge of the sixth extinction,” Pimm said from research at the Dry Tortugas. “Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”

The work, published Thursday by the journal Science, was hailed as a landmark study by outside experts.

Pimm’s study focused on the rate, not the number, of species disappearing from Earth. It calculated a “death rate” of how many species become extinct each year out of 1 million species.

In 1995, Pimm found that the pre-human rate of extinctions on Earth was about 1. But taking into account new research, Pimm and his colleagues refined that background rate to about 0.1.

Now, that death rate is about 100 to 1,000, Pimm said.

 

 

29 Responses to “PBS: Extinctions on the Rise”

  1. jimbills Says:

    For anyone interested in this topic, I’d suggest Elizabeth Kolbert’s excellent book, “The Sixth Great Extinction”. The reasons for the rapid increase in species loss from background levels are multiple, but all of the multiple reasons have one root cause – man’s actions.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    We are “on the VERGE of the sixth extinction”? Most scientists are convinced that the sixth mass extinction is already well under way. I agree with them.

    Once again the “conservatism” of the scientist appears, along with the mindless optimism shown by:

    “…..we can make a difference if we choose to and should be a clarion call to take action to protect more habitat for species besides our own and to check our own population growth and consumption.”

    Protect habitat for species BESIDES OUR OWN and CHECK OUR OWN POPULATION GROWTH AND CONSUMPTION? Since when are we protecting OUR human habitat and doing anything much to check the human footprint on the planet? If we had been doing that, there’d be no need for Crock.

    And I have to laugh at the “the rate of extinction would have been 20% higher” if we hadn’t been doing such a GREAT job of “conservation”. I subscribe to the Center For Biological Diversity, as well as the Defenders of Wildlife and a slew of other such groups and sites. There is nothing cuter and more deserving of a proper habitat than a baby manatee, but I am NOT going to P**S into the wind trying to help save them—-my money will go to the LCV and the political action arms of the NRDC, EDF, and Sierra Club as they work to drive the one group of animals on this planet to extinction that truly deserves it—-the Repugnant politicians who are owned by the plutocrats and corporate oligarchs.


  3. Basically we humans are the invasive species in every part of the world except our center of origins.

  4. ubrew12 Says:

    There’s something especially chilling about watching a ‘Pimm’ and proper bespectacled English Gentlemen address the class and almost apologetically announce Earth’s sixth great mass extinction.

  5. rayduray Says:

    Earth;s Land Mammals By Weight:

    http://xkcd.com/1338/

    To say the least, we humans dominate this planet completely.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Actually, Ray, all the ants in the planet weigh about the same as the humans and the bacteria likely outweigh all the mammals and every other animal combined. We seem to “dominate” only because we are so self-centered that we pay little attention to all those life forms that have been here WAY longer than we have.

      • jimbills Says:

        I thought the same thing when I saw it, but the chart is for land mammals only. The source is Vaclav Smil, a decent one, but I’d like to see it confirmed elsewhere, too. Anyway, imagine what the state of all land mammals are now compared to even just 150 years ago. The American bison alone probably outweighed all humans and livestock just a few generations ago.

        I was looking at a Texas map of 1845 today. 170 years isn’t a long time. My grandfather’s great grandfather lived back then. The map showed most of Texas as Native American regions by tribe with a smattering of colonies and cities. Now even Texas doesn’t have an acre that hasn’t been claimed by government or private ownership.

        If the same things happening now had happened a million years ago, and if we were examining them, the changes would appear to be more sudden than anything we currently study. It would appear practically instantaneous.

        • rayduray Says:

          Re: “The American bison alone probably outweighed all humans and livestock just a few generations ago.

          I just did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation. A high estimate for the number of American bison before man came to North America is 60,000,000 individuals. Since the bulls can get up to a ton, the females more like 1,200 pounds and the calves less, I used a figure of 1,000 pounds per animal on average. This then in tonnage would amount to 30,000,000 tons. or about 30 of the squares on the graphic I linked to.

          So, it would appear that the American Bison at full herd size was still considerably short of the weight of humans and their livestock, by an order of magnitude, give or take, I’d reckon. 🙂

          Texas was certainly a strange mix of influences when it got put together. I’ve just become a fan of Los Texmaniacs, a conjunto band. They sound Spanish, but if you listen close you can here the German and Czech accordian renditions of traditional polkas, waltzes and schottisches here:

          • jimbills Says:

            Good stuff.

            Of course, on the calculations, you’d have to re-estimate the number of humans and their livestock from that time period. It’d be a fraction of what it is now.

      • rayduray Says:

        DOG,

        Of course you are correct about ants and bacteria.

        But I’ll wait until I see next year’s ant army budget and empire building plans before chiming in on their potential for dominance. [wink]

        • jimbills Says:

          Ants got me thinking about endangered ant species. You don’t hear much about that. They’re not cute and cuddly or particularly charismatic like the California Condor.

          Found this – it’s a kid’s site, and it’s for British ants only:
          http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/endangered/bi_insectsants.html

          The reasons for endangerment are listed as human factors.

          In the Southern United States, fire ants (human importation, accidental) have displaced many native species and threaten many other species by extension.

          Now, it’s “crazy ants”:
          http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-rise-of-the-crazy-ants/

          “The only way they are spreading is because of people.”

          • rayduray Says:

            Hi Jim,

            The more I learn about the inadvertent consequences of globalization the more I begin to want to start seeing free trade types’ heads on pikes in public squares.

            This is the first I’ve heard of the tawny crazy ant. But all too frequently I’ve heard of pestilences like Dutch Elm disease or the latest scourge in the UK, the ash tree dieback:

            http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/plantHealth/treeHealth/chelsea2013/topThreats.cfm

            What we’ve managed to do as humans engaging in excessive, extreme mixing of biota is to turn Earth from a paradisical garden into a planet of weeds:

            Click to access Quammen1998.pdf

          • dumboldguy Says:

            The more I’ve learned about ALL the consequences of run amok capitalism over the past few decades, both inadvertent and deliberate, the more I simply want to see free market types’ heads on pikes in public squares. No “begin to want” —-they are destroying the planet, pure and simple, as they indulge their greed and self-interest, and they won’t be stopped until someone executes them.

            This is the first I’ve heard of the tawny crazy ant too, and it’s a neat story—neat in terms of how wondrous the workings of nature are. Things like tawny crazy ants are what got me to move away from the physical sciences (and things like boring old quarks) and into modern biology.

            And I take small issue with “What we’ve managed to do as humans engaging in excessive, extreme mixing of biota is to turn Earth from a paradisical garden into a planet of weeds”.

            A nice essay by Quammen, but you and he both misuse the word “weed”—-it is a judgmental, anthropocentric view. There is no such thing as a “weed” in nature. The biosphere simply is what it is, and it changes and evolves as plants and animals come and go and conditions change in a particular habitat or biome.

            And “paradisical garden” is a bit of anthropocentrism also. The plants and animals living in the “tropical paradisical garden” of Tahiti are simply the ones who have evolved to live there, and there is the same gnashing of teeth and spilling of blood there as everywhere else on earth even though we might consider it a “paradise”. The critters living in a stinking dump are in just as much of a “paradise” for their purposes as those in Tahiti.

            The biosphere is what it is, and man’s arrival on the scene didn’t make much difference when he was a migrating hunter-gatherer. The beginnings of agriculture and “civilization” were the beginning of the end, and the industrialization of the last 200+ years and the rapid advance of technology (and capitalism) over the past 100 are the dagger in the heart. Nature bats last, and the rules that determine who plays on her team are immutable. Man’s hubris will be the end of the species.


    • nature blessed us to ”dominate” the planet = it’s nature’s fault

      b] with dominance / power comes the ”RESPONSIBILITY!!!””

  6. rayduray Says:

    Extinction on the march on the Oregon Coast. Starfish are in big trouble:

    http://www.ktvz.com/news/unprecedented-sea-star-disease-epidemic-on-ore-coast/26331474

    • redskylite Says:

      Thanks for sharing that – unfortunately no one states the cause of the demise of our beautiful co-inhabitant and define it as a mystery, is it acidification/temperature ? at least a few people see the big picture.

      • rayduray Says:

        Temperature is excluded as a cause. The ocean temps off the Oregon coast are at the high end of the normal range. Acidification has perhaps unleashed a virus, bacteria or perhaps even something exotic like a prion that is attacking the sea stars. This is still being sorted out by the scientists.

        I suspect that the sea stars have been weakened by our human assaults on their environment.

        Another case where mystery was ongoing for quite a time was CCD among honeybees. Science seems to be uniting in that case after several years research that neonicotinoid pesticides are the trigger that sent the honeybee into steep decline. Of course the neonicotinoid manufacturers, especially Bayer, have been trying to do a damaging FUD campaign to save profits. Bastards.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          “Temperature is excluded as a cause. The ocean temps off the Oregon coast are at the high end of the normal range. Acidification has perhaps unleashed a virus, bacteria or perhaps even something exotic like a prion that is attacking the sea stars. This is still being sorted out by the scientists”

          Uh, Ray? Just because temps are within the normal range but at the high end, they can’t be excluded as a cause. Maybe there’s a synergy or potentiation effect in play there, one where the rising level of acidification now allows temps at the high end of normal to trigger the disaster in some way. You DID say “this is still being sorted out”, so I ‘m at a loss as to why you’re conjecturing about possible agents, and where in heck did you come up with the prion?—-are you proposing that they are suffering from “Mad Sea Star” disease?

          “I suspect that the sea stars have been weakened by our human assaults on their environment” Again, how can you speculate? It “IS still being sorted out”, and it may just be that something has evolved that attacks sea stars without any effect from man—-a simple case of “shit happens”, as it has with many diseases in the past..

          “Another case where mystery was ongoing for quite a time was CCD among honeybees. Science seems to be uniting in that case after several years research that neonicotinoid pesticides are the trigger that sent the honeybee into steep decline. Of course the neonicotinoid manufacturers, especially Bayer, have been trying to do a damaging FUD campaign to save profits. Bastards”.

          Bastards indeed! The folks at Bayer are among the ones whose heads should be on pikes. The science is still not 100% clear because honeybees are under attack from mites and other agricultural chemicals, but the Europeans have done enough science that they have banned the use of neonics. They have established what they think is a link between neonics and CCD.

          Our original testing of neonics by the EPA consisted of dunking honeybees in the stuff and waiting to see what happened. The bees shook it off and survived, so the EPA allowed their use. The Europeans found that it was long term exposure to small amounts of neonics over many months that did the damage. The EPA is looking at renewing that approval, and many environmental groups hare demanding that they ban neonics until they do a proper study. Anyone who wants to help can find on-line petitions and should make a public comment to the EPA—-you can do that on-line in no time.

  7. andrewfez Says:

    Was it on climate crocks that the Yellowstone Park wolves video was posted? That was an eye opener because just that one species missing from the local system threw all the other stuff there out of whack; and what was interesting was that it was a top-of-the-food-chain species and not some intermediary with which the higher-ups would have been dependent. When the wolves were reintroduced, this rejuvenated the system in multiple unforeseeable ways. I can’t remember the details but it cut the deer population back, and reinvigorated whatever flora the overpopulated deer were destroying, etc.

    Here I found it:

    • andrewfez Says:

      And I remember a commenter from 1 or 2 years ago that informed us of the importance of something like buffalo with regard to the health of the grassland it was historically tied to.


      • I believe there are some experimenting with “buffalo” kind of herding of livestock too in order to improve grassland health. Nothing is like natural spreading of plant nutrition and have them stomp on it too while they are at it.

        Evolution is both wonderfully creative and fragile at the same time. Earth has been relatively stable for a long time. We are throwing everything into a new state and whatever niche evolution created is practically gone in a blink of a geological eye.


  8. human overpopulation is the precursor for the extinction of other species…

    how come nobody from the Warmist camp doesn’t say to prof Rejandra Pachaury; to tell the ladies in India ”to keep their legs crossed?”

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Stefanthedumber is back—-has his junior high closed for the summer vacation and he’s bored already? I’ll play with him for a while.

      First, saying “human overpopulation is the precursor for the extinction of other species…” DOES demonstrate some understanding on StefanTD’s part. He is capable of learning, apparently.

      However, saying “how come nobody from the Warmist camp doesn’t say to prof Rejandra Pachaury; to tell the ladies in India ”to keep their legs crossed?”, is both awkward grammatically and demonstrative of little understanding of the population and social dynamics behind India’s rapid population growth.

      India DID have one of the earliest family planning programs, and it made some significant progress early on, but India was not a totalitarian state like Red China, and therefore couldn’t enforce a “one child” policy like China’s and is now pretty much losing the battle. There will be another 1/4 billion Indians by 2030, and it will surpass China as the world’s most populous country.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I was going to trash this as being not only ignorant, but offensive, but decided that once again, it is a useful window into the denialist mindset.


      • You have discovered that deniers have the opposite of their intended effect. Touche, Peter.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        IMO, StefanTD is less a denier and more a kid looking to aggravate his elders. Perhaps he will learn something here—I doubt we will learn much from him beyond proof that “sophomoric” is a good descriptor for some folks.

        From the Greek—-“sophos” & “moros” = “wise fool”


  9. Its somewhat ironic to see both the news presenter and Dr. Pimm in front of classical city skyscraper backdrops talking about rate of species extinction. At the question of why its happening he might just as well turned around and pointed at the city (except that no doubt they are both in front of green screens).


  10. […] 1,000 Times Faster Because of HumansSpecies Are Going Extinct 1,000 Times Faster Because of HumansPBS: Extinctions on the RiseSpecies going extinct faster than in past, Study – News of the World var TubePressJsConfig = […]


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