The Sixth Extinction Has Likely Already Begun

Scientists believe we have entered a sixth mass extinction event, calling for conservation and documentation of species before they are lost forever.

1 minute read

January 25, 2022, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Danita Delmont / Shutterstock

A research team from the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Biosciences Research Center is warning that the Sixth Mass Extinction—an extinction event predicted by scientists and largely driven by anthropogenic causes like rapid climate change—may have already begun. As Becky Ferreira writes in Vice, the team analyzed extinction data for mollusks, which the researchers argue provide a better random sample of biodiversity than vertebrates, which only make up 5 percent of animals.

The team is basing its conclusion on the rate of extinction, adding that the crisis is more severe on land than in the oceans. According to their analysis, between 7.5 and 13 percent of species have become extinct since 1500. A catastrophic extinction event is defined as a loss of 75 percent or more of species.

Robert Cowie, who leads the research team, says he feels "obligated to express opinions" due to the urgent nature of their findings. But Cowie admits that conservation efforts won't save every species, saying "We feel that the most important thing we can do for the future is to preserve as many of these species as possible in museums, so that in 200, 300, or 500 years from now, people will still be able to say this is what the Earth once had."

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 in Vice

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