Humanity is responsible for more extinctions over the past 126,000 years than any climate-related activity, a new study has found. And things will only get worse for mammals in the animal kingdom, says the research, as humans continue to be the main factor in devastating the planet.
Using Bayesian modelling – using past statistics to predict future trends – researchers believe that at least 351 mammalian species have gone extinct in the past 126,000 years, but 80 of those have come in just the last 500 years.
Based on these calculations, the researchers believe current extinction rates are 1,700 times higher for mammals than throughout Earth’s history when humans have been present.
The team, led by computational biologist Tobias Andermann from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, believe that for another 351 mammals to go extinct, just 810 years will need to pass based on current trends.
The research published in the journal Science Advances, said: “Based on current trends, we predict for the near future a rate escalation of unprecedented magnitude.”
The data suggests that the single greatest cause of extinction is climate change, with the population boom of mankind explaining mammalian species’ extinction with 96 percent accuracy, while increased land occupation predicts extinctions with 97.1 percent accuracy.
The research continued: “Climate predictors, on the other hand, lead to very low accuracy values, such as global temperature with 63.6 percent accuracy… and the rate of temperature change with 60.2 percent accuracy.
“In reality, the causes of extinctions are more complex and are not expected to be fully dependent on a single variable.
“Yet, our results show that human population growth and associated processes had a strong effect on mammal extinctions, while global climatic patterns, such as the last glacial maximum, leave no statistically detectable trace in the extinction record.”
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However, Mr Andermann said it is not necessarily too late to save mammals if humanity acts now.
He said: “We can save hundreds of species from extinction with more targeted and efficient conservation strategies.
“But in order to achieve this, we need to increase our collective awareness about the looming escalation of the biodiversity crisis and take action to combat this global emergency. Time is pressing.”