According to a recent study published in Science, we could face an ecological meltdown if biodiversity continues to decline at its current rate. This is the conclusion reached by scientists after reviewing more than 1,200 different studies and reaching across disciplines such as ecology and economics. The results of this research suggest that we need to make significant changes now to avoid major environmental degradation later on.
The research was led by Rodolfo Dirzo, a biology professor at Stanford University and co-author of the paper. According to Dr. Dirzo This ‘landscape of doom’ underpins the very fabric of life and humanity depends on it for our survival.
Dirzo and his colleagues made their conclusions by reviewing scientific papers that were published over the past 25 years. They also analyzed data on population sizes and geographic ranges of 27,600 different species. This allowed them to compare current data against historical facts to establish how biodiversity has changed across various regions of the Earth at different times.
They found that global extinction rates are currently 1,000 times greater than the background extinction rate. This means that we are losing species 1,000 times faster than what would be expected without human interference. If these rates continue, we will lose up to 20% of Earth’s species by 2100. If current trends persist for just 50 years longer, then up to half of all plant and animal species on the planet could be wiped out due to human causes.
Dirzo says that this would result in a major collapse of Earth’s ecosystems, which will have negative effects on our planet and all of us living here. The loss of plant species would reduce food security, as well as destabilizing important agricultural systems across the planet. A decline in animal species would result in the loss of key sources of food as well as creatures that play an important part in controlling pests and maintaining healthy ecosystems.
The loss of animals such as lions, tigers, and bears could also lead to the deterioration of their habitats. This will mean that these animals can no longer fulfill their ecological roles within these environments. For example, if tigers are not around to keep a check on the deer population, then this could lead to the large-scale destruction of woodland.
Dirzo believes that if we do not act now, it’s very likely that Earth will enter what has been called the sixth mass extinction in its history. The previous five major extinctions occurred when natural disasters were compounded by the arrival of new species. However, this time, man is the deciding factor in whether other lifeforms continue to exist on our planet or not. So far, we have contributed to the extinction of numerous plant and animal species all over the world. This includes the disappearance of close to 40% of amphibian populations because they are being killed by a fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis. This disease has killed off numerous species of frog, and some experts believe that up to 200 amphibian species could become extinct in the next 20 years.
The loss of plant life would also have a major impact on our planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That’s because plants play a vital role in the process of converting CO2 into oxygen. The decline of plant life on Earth would reduce this carbon capture, which means more carbon dioxide will remain trapped in our atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. This will lead to an increase in global temperatures and more extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, which could make it even more difficult for us to continue living on this planet.