Our world today: Facing a sixth extinction?
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Having looked back into deep time at the five mass extinction events, what can we say about the threats to biodiversity today? We have seen how extinction has been a ‘natural’ part of the development of life on Earth – and indeed, we have looked especially at how the disruptions have led to dramatic ‘shuffling’ of our biota in unexpected ways, often allowing for the emergence of new forms (like ourselves!).
So if extinctions are part of our world, why are scientists alarmed about the possibility of a sixth mass extinction? The rapid pace of environmental change as a result of human activity is a particular concern. The previous extinction ‘events’ occurred over the course of several thousands to millions of years, and as we have learnt, each time it took ecosystems a long time to recover from the effects.
Thus, the previous five extinction events allow us to see how our planet and biodiversity responded to the environmental crises in the past – which might give us clues to what impact we can anticipate today. In the conversations with various scientists this week, we uncover much about human impacts on environments, which is quite disturbing. Yet, everyone I spoke to was also hopeful about our ability to stop the rampant destruction. Please do contribute your ideas and share your thoughts with others in the comments sections below each interview.
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Extinctions: Past and Present
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