Animal species are disappearing at a rate not seen since dinosaurs vanished 66 million years ago, a new study has found, in what researchers say is the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history and one caused largely by humans.
The findings of the study, published in the journal Science Advances on Friday, could have serious implications for humans who may soon find themselves on the list of species under threat, its authors warned.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico.
The study, which also involved experts at Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley, took extinction rates from the past 100 years and compared it to a “background rate” of extinction – the average number of species that went extinct in centuries “before human activity dominated” the planet.
In contrast to previous studies, researchers used what they described as “extremely conservative” figures for their analysis.
They assumed a background rate of extinction of two mammals per 10,000 species per 100 years – which they said was twice as high as previous widely used estimates.