Issues > Mass Species Extinction
|Scientists predict that we may lose half of all species on the planet by the end of this century. Although thousands of species of plants, animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods are lost every year, the Holocene Extinction is notable for the disappearance of large mammals, also known as megafauna, which have dominated the top of the food chain.
What differentiates these events from previous extinctions?Throughout Earth’s history, there have been five major extinction events. The last one, which killed all the dinosaurs, was caused by a meteor striking the planet at 20 times the speed of a rifle bullet. We are entering the sixth mass extinction – the first caused by a single species: humans.
Climate change and, more generally, the impact and proliferation of modern humans are the source of decline. Whatever the cause, we know that in this rapid succession of decline, oceans will be affected most profoundly, losing five times more species than will be lost on land. From the plankton responsible for two-thirds of all the oxygen we breathe, to the great singing humpback whales vast swaths of the planet’s species are already being threatened by swift and non-discriminating forces. Pollution, habitat loss, overfishing, climate change, and ocean acidification will each contribute to this catastrophic loss that will change the oceans as we know them, forever.