What's the Latest?
A new study from noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University has measured the rate at which species are currently going extinct and concludes that the plant is on the brink of a sixth massive extinction of plant and animal life. "Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene," says the study, which also quantifies past rates of species extinction. Pimm identifies the number-one cause of rapid extinction as habitat loss. "Species are finding no place to live as more places are built up and altered by humans."
What's the Big Idea?
"Five times, a vast majority of the world's life has been snuffed out in what have been called mass extinctions, often associated with giant meteor strikes." Other major contributing factors to the current accelerated rate of extinction include invasive species crowding out native species, climate change affecting where species can survive, and overfishing. But the next great extinction does not have to occur. Whether the human species kills off the diversity on which the planetary ecosystem depends will be determined by our collective action.