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The planet is losing more wildlife than previously thought

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Man has killed off most of Earth’s extant wildlife, and some scientists argue that human activity set off the world’s sixth mass extinction event. New research Now shows that global animal populations are declining faster than previously thought.

Authors of the study published in the journal organic review More than 71,000 animal species—including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects—were analyzed to assess their population growth over time, May 15. They found that 49% of these species are stable, but 48% have shrinking populations, and only 3% have growing populations.

Assessment of the extent of mass extinction has traditionally depended on the conservation status assigned to a species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN Red List marks these positions periodically to provide a snapshot of the changing composition of wildlife. Of the more than 150,300 species at risk of population and extinction assessed by the committee, 28% are considered It is facing the threat of extinction.

Animal populations disappear all the time to make way for new species, but a new study highlights the extent of “real” biodiversity loss, as species with declining populations far outnumber those with increasing numbers. says Daniel Pinchera-Donoso, co-author of the research. “The problem with this mass extinction is that it’s happening very quickly,” he tells TIME. “Species haven’t had enough time to evolve to take [over] They [other] species. So we lose and lose and lose, and we don’t see our turnover.

The authors also concluded that relying solely on the IUCN Red List “risks underestimating the severity of biodiversity loss” as they found that approximately 33% of species classified as “non-threatened” There is also a decline in the population of For example, some 13% of bird species are considered “threatened,” but the study found that populations of 53% of those are declining.

Amphibian species such as frogs and nymphs appear to be most at risk, with low stable populations and high declining populations. Geography is also a factor, as animal population declines are more concentrated in tropical regions than in temperate regions.

“Collectively, our findings reinforce warnings that biodiversity is on the brink of extinction,” the authors write. This, they say, “will have wide-ranging ecological and ecological consequences, given that ecological functioning is severely affected by population declines and consequent changes in community structures.”

Read more: The United Nations reports that 1 million species may become extinct. Shows how difficult it will be to heal the planet

Lim Joon Ying, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore, says the study, although not particularly revelatory, is a more nuanced assessment of animal populations than IUCN threat categories.

But Lim notes a warning. “How these numbers work out, you really have to look at the local context,” he says. “It is not just the total number of how much is being lost. We have to take into account what those species are actually doing in those ecosystems. And whether the ecosystem has the capacity to compensate for that loss.”

The IUCN categories remain an “excellent resource” for conservation scientists, Pinchiera-Donoso explains, and their study should be used alongside this for more preventive approaches to addressing biodiversity loss. “It is not out of date by any means; This is an alternative way of looking at the situation. And really, if you put them together, you can get a pretty accurate picture of what’s going on.”

Pincheira-Donoso says their study could help policymakers focus on more forward-looking conservation efforts rather than focusing on current data.

For Lemnuel Aragones, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the study is a “great revelation” about when biodiversity loss is removed to shore, and the extent of the damage humans cause to wildlife. . “The layman doesn’t have the intuition to put things together, that we have had such an extreme impact on our environment, that we have cleared and converted many ecosystems, resulting in the demise of some species,” Aragones he said. “We don’t want to say there isn’t a problem when there really is.”

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