Scientists in Great Britain have been studying the distribution of birds, butterflies and plants for the past 40 years and the results from these studies suggest that the Earth is heading towards another mass extinction, and this one may have its roots in human activity.
Within the four billion years that Earth has been around, it has already experienced five mass extinctions. The most recent, and most well known occurred 65 million years ago and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. While that my have been caused by a meteor colliding with the earth, if scientists are correct, our actions, both past and present, are harming many species of organisms and we may even be causing our own demise.
The ongoing studies in Great Britain covered the biodiversity (that is the amount of species of an organism within a given area) and the amount of land the plants, birds, and butterflies each occupied. It covered 1254 species of plants studied from 1954 to 1960 and again from 1987 to 1999, 201 bird species studied between 1968 and 1971 and again from 1988 to 1989, and 58 butterfly species studied between 1970 and 1982 and again between 1995 and 1999 (Thomas et al. 2004). Before this study there was only speculation into the possible population decline of insects. Since they are so abundant it had been hard to get any grasp on their actual number or the effect humans were having on them (Pennisi 2004).
Over the time they were studied 3.4% of the species of butterflies went extinct compared to only .4% of the plant species. None of the species of birds that were studied went extinct during the time of the research. The extinctions that occurred were evenly spread throughout Great...
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...xtinction just yet, a short period of time from a geological point of view can be hundreds of thousands of years.
Ananthaswamy, Anil. “Earth faces sixth mass extinction” NewScientist.com News Service. March 18, 2004 http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994797
Pennisi, Elizabeth. 2004 “Naturalists' Surveys Show That British Butterflies Are Going, Going ...” Science v. 303, p. 1747
Recer, Paul. “Humans blamed for march toward 6th mass extinction” Star Ledger Online. March 19, 2004 http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-14/1079682723291630.xml
Rincon, Paul. “UK wildlife 'heading into crisis'” BBC News Online. March 18, 2004 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3520372.stm
Thomas, J. A. et al., 2004 “Comparative Losses of British Butterflies, Birds, and Plants and the Global Extinction Crisis” Science v. 303, p. 1879
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