Scientists have recently revealed that so many animals will go extinct in the next 50 years that it will take our planet around 3 million years to recover.
Humans are exterminating animal and plant species so quickly that the built-in defense mechanism of nature, evolution, cannot keep up.
This is according to a new study led by scientists from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, who have calculated that, if current conservation efforts do not improve, many mammal species will become extinct over the next five decades, so nature will need between 3 and 5 million years to recover.
According to experts, our planet has witnessed five global disorders in the last 450 million years when the environment on Earth changed so drastically that most of Earth’s plant and animal species became extinct.
After each mass extinction, evolution has slowly filled in the gaps with new species.
The Sixth Mass Extinction
The sixth mass extinction is happening as you are reading this, but this time the extinctions are not being caused by natural disasters; They are the fault of humans.
If mammals diversify at their normal rate, it will still take them between 5-7 million years to restore biodiversity to their level before modern humans evolve, and 3 to 5 million years only to reach current levels of biodiversity, according to the analysis published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’.
Scientists used an extensive database of mammals, which includes not only the species that still exist but also the hundreds of species that lived in the recent past and became extinct as ‘Homo sapiens’ spread throughout the world.
This meant that researchers had the ability to study the total impact of our species on other mammals.
However, it is noteworthy to mention that certain extinct animals, such as the leopard-like Australian marsupial lion ‘Thylacoleo’, or the strange South American ‘Macrauchenia’, were distinct evolutionary lineages and had only a few close relatives.
When these animals became extinct, they took with them entire branches of the evolutionary tree of life.
Not only were these species lost, but we also lost the unique ecological functions and the millions of years of evolutionary history they represented.
“Large mammals, or megafaunas, such as giant sloths and saber-toothed tigers, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, were highly evolutionarily distinct,” Davis said in a press release. “Since they had few close relatives, their extinctions meant that entire branches of Earth’s evolutionary tree were chopped off.”
He added that “there are hundreds of species of shrews, so they can withstand some extinctions, there were only four species of saber-toothed tigers, they all became extinct.”
“We now live in a world that is becoming increasingly impoverished of large wild mammalian species,” Jens-Christian Svenning, an Aarhus University professor who researches megafauna, said in the press release.
“The few remaining giants, such as rhinos and elephants, are in danger of being wiped out very rapidly.”