How many species are we losing?
And one that’s very hard to answer.
It’s a big complex world and we discover new species to science all the time.
"Scientists were startled in 1980 by the discovery of a tremendous diversity of insects in tropical forests. In one study of just 19 trees in Panama, 80% of the 1,200 beetle species discovered were previously unknown to science... Surprisingly, scientists have a better understanding of how many stars there are in the galaxy than how many species there are on Earth." WRI
So, if we don’t know how much there is to begin with, we don’t know exactly how much we’re losing.
But we do have lots of facts and figures that seem to indicate that the news isn’t good.
- The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.*
- These experts calculate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year.
- If the low estimate of the number of species out there is true - i.e. that there are around 2 million different species on our planet** - then that means between 200 and 2,000 extinctions occur every year.
- But if the upper estimate of species numbers is true - that there are 100 million different species co-existing with us on our planet - then between 10,000 and 100,000 species are becoming extinct each year.
** Between 1.4 and 1.8 million species have already been scientifically identified.
Unlike the mass extinction events of geological history, the current extinction challenge is one for which a single species - ours - appears to be almost wholly responsible.
This is often referred to as the 6th extinction crisis, after the 5 known extinction waves in geological history.
So without arguing about who’s right or wrong.
Or what the exact numbers are.
There can be little debate that there is, in fact, a very serious biodiversity crisis.