In 1976 Norman Mysers asked are we currently on the brink of the 6th mass extinction? Species naturally come and go over long periods of time. But what sets a mass extinction apart is it is a widespread and rapid loss of species on Earth. Mass extinction event occurs when the rate of extinction greatly exceeded the rate of speciation. Such an event is identified by a sharp change in the diversity and abundance of multicellular organism. The majority of diversity and biomass on Earth is microbial, thus difficult to measure and record. As a result extinction events is seen as affecting easily observed multicellular component of the biosphere, rather than the total diversity and abundance of life.
Throughout Earth history there have been five major extinction events . These include Ordovician-Siluraian extinction events which occurred 450-440 million years ago (mya); Late Devonian Extinction which occurred 375-360 Mya; Permian- Traissic extinction even which occurred 252 mya; Triassic-Jurassic extinction event 201 mya; Cretaceous-Paglegoene extinction event which occurred 66 mya. The Createceous- Paleogoene extinction event is probably the most famous and known mass extinction event.This is the extinction event that wipe out the last of the non-avian dinosaurs. Scientist have come up with two hypotheses that explain this extinction event: an extraterrestrial impact, such as an asteroid or comet, or a massive bout of volcanism. The proposed 6th mass extinction events we are currently in or at the brink of entering is being called Anthropocene extinction and its main cause is human activity.
The current extinction rate is estimated at 10-1000 times greater than in the past. The current mass extinction is caused by various human activities. These activities include: habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, over-exploitation of species, and introduced species. These activities don’t also work alone to cause extinction of species, rather they most work in tandem with each other. Experts estimate at the current rate that 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year. It is estimated that 10 million species are on the planet, but it is also estimated that about 80% of species are still undiscovered, this means there may be about a 100 million that species co-existing with us on our planet. This means that we are currently losing 10,000-10,000 species a year.
Here are some animals that might now survive 2016:
Northern White Rhino
Uncontrolled hunting in the colonial era was historically the major factor in the decline of white rhinos. Today, poaching for the illegal trade in their horns is the major threat. Powdered horn is used in traditional Asian medicine as a supposed cure for a range of illnesses – from hangovers to fevers and even cancer.
Amur leopards are threatened by poaching, encroaching civilisation, new roads, poaching of prey, forest fires, inbreeding, possible coexisting with disease carriers and transmitters, and exploitation of forests.
As forests disappear under the chainsaw to make way for agriculture, plantations and infrastructure, saola are being squeezed into smaller spaces. The added pressure from rapid and large-scale infrastructure in the region is also fragmenting saola habitat.
The vaquita will be extinct definitely by 2018 possibly earlier, if fishery bycatch is not eliminated immediately. Nearly one out of every five vasquita get entangled and drown in gillnets intended for other marine species
Here are some plants that might now survive 2016:
Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
Platanthera praeclara, the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid only exists in five U.S. states in the Midwest. Estimates that there are only 172 populations of this plant, with merely four with more than 1,000 plants. This is a wetland plant that grows in “prairie potholes”, indents left by glaciers in the recent ice age, 20,000 years ago. The main threats to this plant are development, overgrazing, fires, and global warming.
Rafflesia arnoldii, Rafflessia Flower is thought to be the largest flower on the planet. The flower itself does not have a structural stem, leaves, or roots. Instead it has a pungent odors that smells like decomposing flesh, hence the nickname corpse flower. The Rafflesia flower is endangered because of the loss of habitat as human population clears rain forest
Symphyotrichum georgianums, Georgia Aster is native to southeastern United States. According to NatureServe.com, a conservation organization, this plant first grew in small clumps, but now there are about 60 populations of this plant due to natural habitat development.
Acalypha wigginsii, Wiggins is native to a tiny part of the Galapagos Islands. Construction work and loss of habitat are the main reasons these plants have declined in number. They are considered aCritically Endangered by the Galapagos Conservation Trust