Species extinction rates higher than previously thought

According to a new study performed by biologists, the current extinction rates of terrestrial animal and plant species associated with human activities may be up to 10 times higher than previously thought. By using fossil datasets and mathematical models, the scientists were able to estimate new natural background rates of species diversification and extinction. Their results indicate that until now, these background rates are likely to have been overestimated and should be in the order of 0.1 extinction per million species per year, rather than 1 extinction per million species per year. Because current rates of extinction are compared against background levels, these new results have major implications for the apparent impact of mankind on life on Earth: the effects may be even more severe than expected.

Journal reference: De Vos, J. M., Joppa, L. N., Gittleman, J. L., Stephens, P. R., & Pimm, S. L. (2014). Estimating the normal background rate of species extinction. Conservation Biology.

Image: Fossil remains of Archaeopteryx displayed in the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany. Source: H. Raab, Wikimedia Commons.

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