Species don’t go extinct as fast as some apocalyptic voices point out

Species don't go extinct as fast as some apocalyptic voices point out

Elizabeth Kolbert , author of the 2014 book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History , places the future of humanity on a dystopian level typical of the most catastrophic science fiction films. He may be right, but there is also no strong evidence that this is the case.

The book also quotes anthropologist Richard Leakey , co-author of the 1995 book The Sixth Extinction: The Future of Life and Humanity , who also claims that the extinction rate of living species is accelerating. But this and other similar claims are based on a model created in 1967.

Species-area model

Evolutionary biologists Robert H. MacArthur and EO Wilson developed the species-area model in 1967 and it is based on the assumption that as more species compete for declining resources, fewer will survive. But the model was wrong, as a 2011 study published in the journal Nature suggested.

Furthermore, direct observation contradicts the most ominous estimates . For example: more new plant species have emerged in Europe during the last 300 years than have been documented as extinct in the same period. In fact, if the model were true, half of the world’s species should have already become extinct in the last two hundred years.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 6% of species are critically endangered, 9% are in danger of extinction and 12% are vulnerable to being so. Only 0.8% of the 112,432 species of plants, animals and insects included in your data have, in fact, gone extinct since 1500. It is a rate of less than two species lost each year, for an extinction rate 0.001% per annum .

The Earth has suffered at least five mass extinctions throughout its history, but ironically, after each one, a growth of the biodiversity that already existed has followed. As Michael Shellenberg abounds in this in his book There is no apocalypse :

The vast increase in biodiversity over the past 100 million years vastly outweighs the losses of species in past mass extinctions. The number of genera, a more powerful measure of biodiversity than species counts alone, has thus tripled over this time period.

To combat the problem of the environment, then, we must not resort to alarmism, extremism or religious behavior, nor to exaggerate for the sake of moving: the data must be presented in a solid and robust way so that no denier throws it to the ground, and on all with not enough humility to accept that we do not know everything that is happening or what will happen (and that this must be taken into account when establishing a cost-benefit calculation on what measures to adopt).