World on Brink of 6th Great Extinction
Humanity has raised extinction rate a thousandfold
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2014 1:36 AM CDT
Updated May 30, 2014 7:47 AM CDT
The Buffy-tufted-ear marmoset is listed as a vulnerable species because of habitat loss.    (AP Photo/Roberto de Lara Haddad)

(Newser) – Human activity is wiping out species of plants and animals at a dizzying rate, leaving the world on the verge of the sixth great extinction in its history, a new study warns. Researchers found that species are vanishing around 10 times faster than previously believed—and 1,000 times faster than they did before humans emerged, the AP reports. A mass extinction on the scale of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs is close, and "whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions," says the lead researcher. Habitat loss is the main factor causing species to disappear, but climate change, overfishing, and the spread of invasive species also play a role.

But the situation isn't completely hopeless: Modern technology and "citizen scientists" are helping biologists locate endangered species, aiding efforts to save their habitats, the study author tells National Geographic. Thanks to mobile apps like iNaturalist and online crowdsourcing, "we know where the species are, we know where the threats are, and—even though the situation is very bleak—we are better able to manage things," he says. What can the average citizen do? A scientist not involved in the study suggests encouraging lawmakers to connect nature reserves to each other, and the study author notes that extinction rates of mammals, birds, and amphibians are 20% lower than they would be without protected refuges. About 13% of the planet's land has been designated as such; the same holds true for only about 2% of the ocean.

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Lou Bernardo
Jun 17, 2014 9:46 AM CDT
Humans are working fast to do humans in with their over breeding and destruction of the elements of the environment that are keeping them alive: food, fresh water, etc.
May 31, 2014 8:36 AM CDT
Ridiculous numbers game. How do we know the extinction rate of the past? Do we have fossils for every species that ever existed? The agenda of the researchers is clear - set aside more reserves and keep out the hated humans. How can invasive species be a problem? It's nothing more than survival of the fittest.
May 31, 2014 12:41 AM CDT
Hogwash. If humans are so powerful, why can't we make mosquitoes, crabgrass, or the flu virus extinct?