From The University of Hawai’i-Manoa (US): “Earth on trajectory to Sixth Mass Extinction say biologists”

From The University of Hawai’i-Manoa (US)

January 14, 2022
Marcie Grabowski

1
Shells from recently extinct land snails from French Polynesia. Photo credit: O.Gargominy, A.Sartori.

Mass biodiversity extinction events caused by extreme natural phenomena have marked the history of life on Earth five times. Today, many experts warn that a Sixth Mass Extinction crisis is underway, this time entirely caused by human activities.

A comprehensive assessment of evidence of this ongoing extinction event was published in Biological Reviews by biologists from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and The National Museum of Natural History [Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle] (MNHN)(FR).

“Drastically increased rates of species extinctions and declining abundances of many animal and plant populations are well documented, yet some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinction,” said Robert Cowie, lead author of the study and research professor at the UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “This denial is based on a highly biased assessment of the crisis which focuses on mammals and birds and ignores invertebrates, which of course constitute the great majority of biodiversity.”

By extrapolating from estimates obtained for land snails and slugs, Cowie and co-authors estimated that since the year 1500, Earth could already have lost between 7.5% and 13% of the two million known species—a staggering 150,000 to 260,000 species.

“Including invertebrates was key to confirming that we are indeed witnessing the onset of the Sixth Mass Extinction in Earth’s history,” said Cowie.

Extinction hits island species disproportionately

2
Native Hawaiian snail habitat on Puʻu Kukui, Maui. Photo credit: Robert Cowie.

The situation is not the same everywhere, however. Although marine species face significant threats, there is no evidence that the crisis is affecting the oceans to the same extent as the land. On land, island species, such as those of the Hawaiian Islands, are much more affected than continental species. And the rate of extinction of plants seems lower than that of terrestrial animals.

Denial of Sixth Mass Extinction

Unfortunately, along with science denial taking a foothold in modern society on a range of issues, the new study points out that some people also deny that the sixth extinction has begun. Additionally, others accept it as a new and natural evolutionary trajectory, as humans are just another species playing their natural role in Earth’s history. Some even consider that biodiversity should be manipulated solely for the benefit of humanity—but benefit defined by whom?

“Humans are the only species capable of manipulating the biosphere on a large scale,” Cowie emphasized. “We are not just another species evolving in the face of external influences. In contrast, we are the only species that has conscious choice regarding our future and that of Earth’s biodiversity.”

To fight the crisis, various conservation initiatives have been successful for certain charismatic animals. But these initiatives cannot target all species, and they cannot reverse the overall trend of species extinction. The authors believe it is essential to continue such efforts, to continue to cultivate a wonder for nature, and crucially to document biodiversity before it disappears.

“Despite the rhetoric about the gravity of the crisis, and although remedial solutions exist and are brought to the attention of decision-makers, it is clear that political will is lacking,” said Cowie. “Denying the crisis, accepting it without reacting, or even encouraging it constitutes an abrogation of humanity’s common responsibility and paves the way for Earth to continue on its sad trajectory towards the Sixth Mass Extinction.”

This research is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

See the full article here .

five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

System Overview

The The University of Hawai‘I (US) includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

The University of Hawaiʻi system, formally the University of Hawaiʻi (US) is a public college and university system that confers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through three university campuses, seven community college campuses, an employment training center, three university centers, four education centers and various other research facilities distributed across six islands throughout the state of Hawaii in the United States. All schools of the University of Hawaiʻi system are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The U.H. system’s main administrative offices are located on the property of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Honolulu CDP.

The University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa is the flagship institution of the University of Hawaiʻi system. It was founded as a land-grant college under the terms of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Programs include Hawaiian/Pacific Studies, Astronomy, East Asian Languages and Literature, Asian Studies, Comparative Philosophy, Marine Science, Second Language Studies, along with Botany, Engineering, Ethnomusicology, Geophysics, Law, Business, Linguistics, Mathematics, and Medicine. The second-largest institution is the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo on the “Big Island” of Hawaiʻi, with over 3,000 students. The University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu in Kapolei primarily serves students who reside in Honolulu’s western and central suburban communities. The University of Hawaiʻi Community College system comprises four community colleges island campuses on O’ahu and one each on Maui, Kauaʻi, and Hawaiʻi. The schools were created to improve accessibility of courses to more Hawaiʻi residents and provide an affordable means of easing the transition from secondary school/high school to college for many students. University of Hawaiʻi education centers are located in more remote areas of the State and its several islands, supporting rural communities via distance education.

Research facilities

Center for Philippine Studies
Cancer Research Center of Hawaiʻi
East-West Center
Haleakalā Observatory
Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute
Institute for Astronomy
Institute of Geophysics and Planetology
Institute of Marine Biology
Lyon Arboretum
Mauna Kea Observatory
W. M. Keck Observatory
Waikīkī Aquarium

U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawai’I (US)
University of Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope.

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth.

W.M. Keck Observatory two ten meter telescopes operated by California Institute of Technology(US) and the University of California(US) Maunakea Hawaii USA, altitude 4,207 m (13,802 ft). Credit: Caltech.

The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes near the summit of Maunakea on the island of Hawai’i feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrographs and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

Pann-STARS 1 Telescope, U Hawaii, situated at Haleakala Observatories near the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii, USA, altitude 3,052 m (10,013 ft).