Scientists have expressed concern, in a recent article published by Biological Reviews, of the coming of a “sixth mass extinction on Earth and in fresh waters”, more and more likely according to them.
“We consider that the sixth mass extinction has probably begun,” notes a team of researchers led by Robert Cowie, professor at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center at the University of Hawaii.
“To deny it would quite simply be to go against the mountain of data which accumulates”, underline the scientists, among whom two French, the biologists Philippe Bouchet and Benoît Fontaine, both from the National Museum of Natural History of Paris.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) July 29, 2014
“There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the planet. Could human activity lead to the sixth?,” commented billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates in 2014. Yes, for the Cowie team “there is no more room for skepticism, nor time to wonder if this is really happening.”
Biodiversity at risk
Five mass extinctions have already occurred on Earth in the past 450 million years, destroying 75% of species in a short period of time.
The team from the University of Hawaii decided to analyze this sixth extinction through the prism of the consequences of human activity on molluscs: “mammals and birds are not representative of the global threats of extinction,” warn the researchers.
“All the estimates made indicate a current rate of extinction much higher than in the past,” they warn. Since the beginning of the 16th century, human activity has indeed caused the disappearance of 7.5 to 13% of species.
“This attitude of laissez-faire in the face of the current crisis is immoral”, insist the researchers in the article. “This disaster cannot end in a positive way.”
Faced with this daunting challenge, they say, it would be necessary at least to “collect”, in museums, these endangered specimens: “in 200, 300 or 500 years, people will be able to come and admire what lived on our earth.”