The gravity of the world's current extinction rate becomes clearer upon knowing what it was before people came along. A new estimate finds that species die off as much as 1,000 times more frequently nowadays than they used to. That's 10 times worse than the old estimate of 100 times. It's hard to comprehend how bad the current rate of species extinction around the world has become without knowing what it was before people came along. The newest estimate is that the pre-human rate was 10 times lower than scientists had thought, which means that the current level is 10 times worse. Extinctions are about 1,000 times more frequent now than in the 60 million years before people came along.

The explanation from lead author Jurriaan de Vos, a Brown University postdoctoral researcher, senior author Stuart Pimm, a Duke University professor, and their team appears online in the journal Conservation Biology. "This reinforces the urgency to conserve what is left and to try to reduce our impacts," said de Vos, who began the work while at the University of Zurich. "It was very, very different before humans entered the scene." There is little doubt among the scientists that humans are not merely witnesses to the current elevated extinction rate. This paper follows a recent one in Science, authored by Pimm, Joppa, and other colleagues, that tracks where species are threatened or confined to small ranges around the globe.


In most cases, the main cause of extinctions is human population growth and per capita consumption, although the paper also notes how humans have been able to promote conservation.

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