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Humans are causing animals and plants to go extinct 1,000 times faster than their natural rate, warn scientists

Fossil records show that current extinction levels are around 1,000 times the natural background rate. Most of these extinctions are unrecorded, so we do not even know what species we are losing.

DAVID REDDING & ELIZABETH BOAKES: ‘When Sudan the white rhino was put down by his carers earlier this year, it confirmed the extinction of one of the savannah’s most iconic subspecies. Despite decades of effort from conservationists… Sudan proved an unwilling mate and died – the last male of his kind… But what about species of which of which we are less fond – or perhaps even entirely unaware? Would we grieve for obscure frogs, bothersome beetles or unsightly fungi?… Their loss would disproportionately affect the shape of the tree, not to mention erasing their weird and wonderful natural history stories…

Forests and wetlands prevent pollutants entering our water supplies, mangroves provide coastal defence by reducing storm surges, and green spaces in urban areas lower city-dwellers’ rates of mental illness. A continued loss of biodiversity will disrupt these services even further. Seen in this light, the environmental damage caused by resource extraction and the vast changes that humans have wrought on the landscape seem extremely high risk.

The most regular counter argument contends that we should not worry about extinction, because it is a ‘natural process’… But fossil records show that current extinction levels are around 1,000 times the natural background rate. They are exacerbated by habitat loss, hunting, climate change and the introduction of invasive species and diseases. Amphibians seem particularly sensitive to environmental change, with estimated extinction rates up to 45,000 times their natural speed. Most of these extinctions are unrecorded, so we do not even know what species we are losing’. SOURCE…

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