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Humans Wiping Out Biodiversity Faster Than Asteroid Explosion That Caused Extinction: Study

Image of representation.

Image of representation.

The study warns that unless significant efforts are made, the ongoing extinction crisis will have a severe impact on freshwater animal and plant life.

About 66 million years ago, an asteroid collided with the Earth causing an explosion equivalent to millions of nuclear weapons detonating simultaneously. The collision wiped out three-fourths of all plant and animal species on Earth. Today, humans are wiping out freshwater gastropods, a group of species of snails and slugs that thrive in freshwater, at a faster rate than the sudden mass extinction event caused by the asteroid, as per a new study.

“66 million years ago, you had an asteroid impact that had an immediate effect on the whole world,” said Thomas A Neubauer, an ecologist at Justus Liebig University in Germany and one of the authors of the study, in his statement to Vice. “Right now we have a comparable situation: it’s similarly catastrophic, and the catastrophe is us, humankind,” Neubauer added.

The research, published in Nature Communications on May 21, 2021, also highlights that previous studies underestimated how the asteroid-caused mass extinction affected the freshwater ecosystems. According to the new study, the extinction phase started by the astronomical event lasted more than 5 million years. Our biodiversity, which was severely damaged because of the loss of more than 92% of all species of the freshwater ecosystems, took about 7 million years to recover.

The study warns that unless significant efforts are made to conserve freshwater ecosystems, the ongoing extinction crisis will have a severe impact on freshwater animal and plant life for millions of years, causing extreme damage to the overall biodiversity of the world.

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According to Nebauer, even if humans’ impact on the planet’s biodiversity ends today, the extinction rate will stay high for a really long period of time. The recovery from the damage caused by humans will take much longer. The ongoing mass extinction caused by humans in the history of evolution is also known as the 6th mass extinction or Anthropocene extinction.

“Despite our short existence on Earth, we have assured that the effects of our actions will outlast us by millions of years," Nebauer said in a news release by Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

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