Earth is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction event, this time caused by human hands, a new study suggests.
The five previous ones were caused by natural phenomena, either due to natural climate shifts or asteroid impacts. This sixth one, however, was anything but natural, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Biological Reviews.
The current extinction event is not even a new phenomenon, but has been going on since at least the 16th century.
Earth was once home to two million known species. According to the study, however, since 1500 CE, as many as 7.5%-13% of them may have been lost, meaning from 150,000 to 260,000 different species.
Some deny this is happening. Or, more precisely, they deny that decline or outright extinction of many species point to a mass extinction event. But the study, led by the University of Hawaii’s Prof. Robert Cowie, argues that this is the result of bias.
Most of these assessments focus on mammals and birds, the research professor said, completely overlooking invertebrates, the majority of biodiversity on Earth.
The severity of the situation varies. Specifically, plant life is impacted at a slower rate, and land-based species – specifically on islands like Hawaii – are much more affected than on continents.
Is the loss of species a natural phenomenon?
“Humans are the only species capable of manipulating the biosphere on a large scale,” Cowie emphasized in a statement. “We are not just another species evolving in the face of external influences. In contrast, we are the only species that has a conscious choice regarding our future and that of Earth’s biodiversity.”