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Humans Are Creating New Species While Destroying Others

Matt Charnock
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Matt Charnock
Humans Are Creating New Species While Destroying Others

Currently, we’re in the midst of what many are calling the anthropocene—the human-created sixth mass extinction. In the past fifty-years, we’ve seen unprecedented declines in wildlife from across the planet, correlating to an observed 50 percent decline in vertebrates from across the planet. But, in the absence of some life, others have managed to find a way to breath through the fray.

Many ecologists, biologists, and the like believe we’re in the midst of a mass extinction caused by the planet’s foremost species — humans. And, as we continue to chop up the tree of life, some limbs seem to be branching-off into new species we haven’t yet seen.

"The biological processes of evolutionary divergence and speciation have not been broken in the Anthropocene," writes Chris Thomas, a professor of ecology at the University of York, in his book Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.

"They have gone into overdrive. … Come back in a million years and we might be looking at several million new species whose existence can be attributed to humans. … In the end, the Anthropocene biological revolution will almost certainly represent the sixth mass genesis of new biological diversity. It could be the fastest acceleration of evolutionary diversification in the last half-billion years,” he writes.

For many conservationists, these ideas are highly controversial, even blasphemous. But, nonetheless, it still has some bearing; it’s based on factual account so few species of fungus, insects, and other plants, specifically.

“Anthropogenic species represent a nanosecond of the evolutionary time that many ‘natural’ species have passed through,” says Christopher Dick, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan. “In conservation, there is no comparing a 10-million-year-old tree or turtle species with a decades-old strain of insect or plant.”

Regardless one sentiment still rings true from a conversation with University of Copenhagen conservationist Joseph Bull, which was later published in WIRED: “We cannot replace something lost with something gained when it comes to nature.”

(Feature image, courtesy of Flickr)