Human overpopulation and over-consumption are leading Earth to its sixth mass extinction faster than was previously thought, with the human race likely to be eradicated along the way, a new study warns.
While much research has focused on the number of species being lost, this study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks at the decline in the size and the range of living creature populations over time.
The scientists surveyed 27,600 land vertebrate species — land-living creatures with spines, including mammals — and a more detailed list of 177 mammal species.
What they found was that populations have shrunk dramatically over recent years and that the range of land over which they can wander when conditions — such as global warning — threaten their habitats has decreased drastically.
Of the 177 mammal species surveyed, all have lost at least 30 percent of their geographical ranges and more than 40% have declined in population size by at least 80%.
The worst-hit areas are Asia followed by Australia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America.
These findings indicate nothing short of “biological annihilation,” the scientists conclude, “a massive anthropogenic [human-driven] erosion of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services essential to civilization.”
One of the authors of the study is biologist Paul R. Ehrlich, a controversial Jewish Stanford biologist who is a strong advocate for population control.
In an opinion piece published by the British newspaper the Guardian on Monday, Ehrlich draws a direct link between unchecked population growth and habitat destruction, saying that the human race has grown so big that nearly 40% of land on Earth is now farmed to feed it.
Cropland does not provide the conditions that wildlife needs to survive. Furthermore, the more people there are, the higher the demand for nature’s products, from timber and meat to gas and rare soils.
Not only do wildlife habitats shrink — they are being increasingly poisoned by chemicals, he says, even those used in everyday products such as cosmetics and preservatives.
“One should not need to be a scientist to know that human population growth and the accompanying increase in human consumption are the root cause of the sixth mass extinction we’re currently seeing.
“All you need to know is that every living being has evolved to have a set of habitat requirements.”
It is that rapid change in habitats that is speeding up the approach of the extinction.
“Its simple. It’s us. The more people there are, the more habitats we destroy. Human civilization can only survive if the population begins to shrink.”
In 2015, Ehrlich warned that “we are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on.”
In 2014, a study by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London found that human consumption had caused the quantity of wild animals on earth to halve over the past 40 years.
Scientists say there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth over the past 443 million years.
The last one caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and opened the way for the evolution of mammals.