Earth facing sixth mass extinction, say scientists

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'In the last few decades, habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive organisms, pollution, toxification, and more recently climate disruption, as well as the interactions among these factors, have led to the catastrophic declines in both the numbers and sizes of populations of both common and rare vertebrate species, ' it said.

In the 177 mammals, all have lost 30 per cent or more of their geographic ranges, while more than 40 per cent have experienced severe population decline with more than 80 per cent range shrinkage.

The report added: "The resulting biological annihilation obviously will also have serious ecological, economic, and social consequences".

It follows research two years ago involving Standord University Professor emeritus Paul Ehrlich which showed that Earth has entered an era of mass extinction unparalleled since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago.

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In the study, researchers from Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico examined the population trends of 27,600 vertebrate species such as birds, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles, including a detailed analysis of 177 species of mammals. Much of the blame is ascribed to anthropogenic causes which lead to large scale depletion of habitat for a number of the affected species.

Scientists found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. Detailed data is available for land mammals, and nearly half of these have lost 80% of their range in the last century. "It is a prelude to the disappearance of many more species and the decline of natural systems that make civilization possible".

The authors cite human overpopulation and overconsumption in their study as the primary reasons driving the loss of individual members of various species, as well as the loss of species (two vertebrate species go extinct every year, on average), and call to undo "the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet".

"We emphasise that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most".

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