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Modern destruction of animal populations rivals extinction of dinosaurs, scientists warn


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(NaturalNews) Another mass extinction event may be on the way if humans don't stop killing off all the animals and destroying the environment. Several top experts in the field of evolutionary biology warn that most living species could soon meet their end unless immediate changes are made to avoid triggering a fallout rivaling that of the dinosaurs.

One such expert is Sean B. Carroll, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who worries about the growing number of animal species that are shrinking in population. Wild animals everywhere are disappearing, he says, with current trends suggesting that another large-scale extinction event may be on the horizon.

Scientist says one fourth of all monitored species will be extinct in the near future

"In the past forty years, Earth has lost half of its wild animal populations," writes Carroll for The Daily Beast. "Fifty years ago, about 400,000 lions roamed Africa. Today, there are only about 30,000 remaining, as they have disappeared from twenty-six countries."

"The fraction of species now at risk of extinction in the near future includes over one quarter of all species being monitored including mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish."

The only other times that such events were known to have occurred were when asteroids destroyed large portions of the earth, or when volcanic eruptions spilled over into the wild, killing tens of millions of animals. Since then, humans have been slowly paving the way for another mass extinction event caused by mismanagement of the planet.

Current extinction rates 12 times higher due to human intervention

According to Anthony Barnosky, a biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, current extinction rates are 1,200 percent greater than normal due to humans killing animals for food, money, or development. At this pace, up to 75 percent of known species could go extinct within the next two to three generations.

"If that rate continues unchanged, the Earth's sixth mass extinction is a certainty," he stated during a phone interview with Bloomberg. "Within about 200 to 300 years, three out of every four species we're familiar with would be gone."

Both Carroll and Barnosky fear that climate change, which some scientists believe is being caused by human activity, might be the final trigger that pushes an extinction event over the edge from possibility to certainty.

"We might do as much damage in 400 years as an asteroid did to the dinosaurs," added Carroll, who also leads the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

"The great concern of scientists today is that the potential global temperature changes projected over the next century approach those that took place 252 million years ago."

'Mass Extinction' film documents series of events that may lead to widespread losses of life

Currently being aired on the Smithsonian Channel, Carroll's documentary Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink details the series of events that may culminate into this type of mass extinction event. If it should occur, it would be the sixth such event to supposedly occur throughout Earth's history.

"We have killed about 50 percent of the world's vertebrate wildlife in just the past 40 years," added Barnosky to The Washington Post (WP). "We've killed half the numbers of individuals. We've fished 90 percent of the fish out of the seas. So these are big things we're doing to the world."

Sources:

http://www.thedailybeast.com

http://www.bloomberg.com

http://www.techtimes.com

http://www.washingtonpost.com
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