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Monday, June 22, 2015

how one species is destroying its landbase

....(we're alive in) one of those brief, rare episodes in Earth history when the biological framework of life is dismantled, but not by an asteroid or a massive volcanic eruption that blots out the sun.

"This second study, led by Mark Williams, a palaeontologist at the University of Leicester, identified some quite extraordinary novelties at the heart of current events. First, past extinctions have been driven by what are now becoming very familiar horsemen of a planetary apocalypse: massive volcanic outbursts to choke the atmosphere and poison the seas; the mayhem caused by major asteroid impact; and the wrenching effects of rapid climate change. None of these has really figured in the current biological crisis – not even climate change, which is still only in its early stages. (The current destruction will really pick up steam then.)

Instead, the extinctions are being driven by the effects of just one single species, Homo sapiens. Such a mass extinction has not occurred before (with the possible exception, 2.5bn years ago, when a type of microbe evolved photosynthesis to spew out oxygen, a gas that would have been highly toxic to the other microbes living then, and these would have been pushed to the fringes of life on Earth – where they still remain). Even more extraordinarily, this single species is land-living, but has managed to become the top predator in the oceans too, causing populations of whales and fish to collapse."

 The article concludes "Averting a mass extinction is still possible – but we don’t have much time."