A MASS extinction of thousands of the world's rarest species
could happen within the next two centuries, mostly at the hands of
Man, the scientific journal Nature suggested last
But the publication admitted that an accurate judgement is
extremely difficult as only four per cent of the Earth's 1.7
million known species have been adequately assessed.
In an editorial, Nature argues that it is now
imperative for governments and groups such as the International
Union for Conservation of Nature to begin an accurate census of
species on the planet and their rates of extinction.
"It is vitally important if we want to start protecting life on
Earth from the worst impacts of our actions," the magazine said.
"The loss for the planet is incalculable - as it is for our own
species, which could soon find itself living in a world denuded of
all variety in nature. As ecologist Paul Ehrlich has put it: 'In
pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off
the limb on which it perches.'"
Nature has pulled together the most reliable available
data from a variety of sources to provide a situation report of
life on Earth: Biodiversity: Life - a status report.
It said: "Among the groups that can be assessed, amphibians
stand out as the most imperilled: 41 per cent face the threat of
extinction, in part because of devastating epidemics caused by
chytrid fungi. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of mammal species
and 13 per cent of birds face significant threats because of
habitat loss and degradation, as well as activities such as
hunting. . . Conservation policies could slow extinctions, but
current trends do not give much comfort. Although nations are
expanding the number of land and ocean areas that they set aside
for protection, most measures of biodiversity show that pressures
on species are increasing."