Earth enters sixth extinction phase with many species – including our own – labelled 'the walking dead'

Earth enters sixth extinction phase with many species – including our own – labelled 'the walking dead'
by Rose Troup Buchanan
Saturday, 20 June 2015

Could humans be facing extinction? Getty

The planet is entering a new period of extinction with top scientists warning that species all over the world are “essentially the walking dead” – including our own.

The report, authored by scientists at Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley universities, found that vertebrates were vanishing at a rate 114 times faster than normal. In the damning report, published in the Science Advances journal, researchers note that the last similar event was 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs disappeared, most probably as a result of an asteroid. "We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event," one of the authors of the paper told the BBC. Gerardo Ceballos, lead author of the research, added: "If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on".

The research examined historic rates of extinction for vertebrates, finding that since 1900 more than 400 vertebrates have disappeared – an extinction rate 100 times higher than in other – non-extinction – periods.

"There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” said Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich. He added: "We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on." The research, which cites climate change, pollution and deforestation as causes for the rapid change, notes that a knock-on effect of the loss of entire ecosystems could be dire.

Critically endangered species

Yangtze Finless Porpoise - There are as few as 1,000 of this highly intelligent dolphin from the Chinese river of Yangtze.

Cross River Gorilla - There are around 200-300 left in the wild.

The Amur Leopard - There are only around 30 left, exclusively in the Russian Far East.

Black Rhino - Improving numbers, but with fewer than 5,000 left in central Africa, it is critically endangered.

Hawskbill Sea Turtle - Mostly threatened by wildlife trade; their shells highly valued.

Javan Rhino - The most threatened rhino species - there are as few as 35 in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.

Leatherback Turtle - Having lost many of its habitable beaches, and impacted by fishing operations, this seaturtle is considered by WWF to be 'critically endangered'.

South China Tiger - It is believed to be 'functionally extinct', with none of the species left in the wild.

Sumatran Elephant - There are between 2,400 - 2,800 of this elephant native to Borneo and Sumatra.

Sumatran Orangutan - There are an est. 7,300 but the gradual deforestation of their Sumatran habitat may threaten further.

As our ecosystems unravel, the Centre for Biological Diversity has noted that we could face a “snowball” effect whereby individual species extinction ultimately fuels more losses.

The report, which builds on findings published by Duke University last year, does note that averting this loss is “still possible through intensified conservation effects,” but that “window of opportunity is rapid closing.”

Source: Independent UK.