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Holocene Extinction: Scientists Say the World Has Entered Into its 6th Mass-Extinction Event

First Posted: Jun 21, 2015 08:34 AM EDT

Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In what has apparently been brought on by human interactions on our planet, scientists have given conservative calculations that, minimally, the world has entered into its sixth mass-extinction event, as reported by NBC News.

The Friday report in Science Advances states that humanity's demise is imminent if we do nothing to change the course of events happening around the globe.

Criteria for this report and the impending projections blatantly state the "claim that Earth's biota is entering a sixth 'mass extinction' depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the 'background' rates prevailing in the five previous mass extinctions."

Estimation of extinction rates from earlier reports have been criticized for using assumptions with the possibility of overestimation in the extinction crisis. But the report claims to use conservative calculations and that the extinction crisis is the least you can expect.

The data used revealed that the average extinction rate is 114 times higher than that of the background rate. These estimates are considered conservative though because the criteria one must meet to consider a species extinct is very high. So these conservative numbers do not extend enough to tell the true size of this event and its potential.

Estimates used in this study also reveal that in the last few centuries alone, the loss of biodiversity has been rapid and substantial.

In a news release, the study's co-author Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University said, "There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead."

Since 1500, only 34 species have been documented as extinct. But since 1980, more than 100 species have disappeared, according to the authors of the study. This also includes the rapid loss of amphibians, who have been the hardest hit with extinctions.

There are several factors attributable to the impending extinction event, which are all directly related to human activity. This includes deforestation, industrialization and other human activities. Other factors outside of human control is the spread of a fatal fungus which has wiped out some amphibians. But the fungus was transported through global shipping channels, so that puts humans back into the equation.

In an e-mail sent to NBC News, Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg wrote that the published paper seemed to be "well in line with current assumptions ... namely that humanity is definitely causing more extinctions, likely hundreds of times more than the natural background rate."

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