On species extinctions

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Do you ever assume that other people know a fair amount about a subject that you know quite a bit about? I ask because a friend told me today that she’d read an interview with Leonardo di Caprio, and he said a mass extinction is occurring on Earth, and most people don’t know it.

I was surprised. Until a few hours ago, I assumed that the current wave of extinctions was common knowledge. Well, that was silly. If I hadn’t specialized in environmental policy, I probably wouldn’t have known about the extinctions, so why did I assume that people in other fields would know?

Who knows? In any case, below you’ll find a few lines from some recent articles about extinctions, along with links to those articles. I hope you’ll take a look.

Thanks!

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/19/travel/gallery/penguin-awareness-day-2016/index.html

From Antarctica to Africa, Penguins Are Facing Extinction

By Ben Adkison, for CNN

January 20, 2016

January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day.

As with most polar species, penguins are feeling the effects of climate change. Ice melt is changing their breeding grounds and overfishing and ocean acidification is affecting their food sources of fish, squid and krill.”

 

http://www.theecologist.org/essays/2986743/a_wild_liberty.html

A Wild Liberty

By Grant A. Mincy, for The Ecologist

January 18, 2016

Of all the complex, wicked problems addressed by the current environmental movement, perhaps the most urgent is the rarely discussed mass extinction. We are currently experiencing Earth’s sixth great mass extinction crisis – on par with the rate that ended the reign of the dinosaurs….

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3131891/The-sixth-mass-extinction-officially-begun-threaten-humanity-s-existence-scientists-warn.html

The Sixth Mass Extinction on Earth Has Officially Begun and Could Threaten Humanity’s Existence, Scientists Warn (and This Time We’re to Blame)

By Mark Prigg, for The Daily Mail

June 19, 201

Species are disappearing about 100 times faster than normal rate.

Experts warn it could take Earth millions of years to recover.

They say humanity would likely disappear early on in the process.

Previous extinctions caused by natural disasters, but this is man-made.

And such a catastrophic loss of animal species presents a real threat to human existence, the experts warn, as crucial ecosystem ‘services’ such as crop pollination by insects and water purification in wetlands is also put at risk.

 

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/whats_causing_deadly_outbreaks_of_fungal_diseases_in_worlds_wildlife/2949/

What’s Causing Deadly Outbreaks of Fungal Diseases in World’s Wildlife?

By Elizabeth Kolbert, for e360

January 18, 2016

Why are we seeing a growing number of fungal diseases of wildlife? Experts offer two possible explanations, both of which may be valid.

The first is the increase in global trade and global travel…. As the sheer volume of global trade and global travel rises, so, too, do the number of opportunities for pathogens of all sorts to disperse. Because fungi don’t need a host to survive, they may be particularly well-suited to intercontinental travel. And when a pathogen is let loose in a new place, the results can be spectacularly deadly.

[There’s] another possible answer to the question “why now.” Fungal diseases tend to be opportunistic…. Climate change, habitat loss, heavy metal pollution, competition from invasives — these are just a few of the forces that may be lowering animals’ resistance.

“I think it’s very likely that habitat in general is degraded, and so you have greater problems with disease,” [said] Tim James, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “Everything is more stressed.”

 

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/whales-are-full-toxic-chemicalshttps://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/whales-are-full-toxic-chemicals

Whales Are Full of Toxic Chemicals

By Sarah Zielinski, for Science News

January 19, 2016

European whales and dolphins may be at risk of extinction from the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a team of researchers recently reported in Scientific Reports. Concentrations of PCBs in killer whales and bottlenose and striped dolphins, they found, were high enough to cause health damage.

Persistent organic pollutants are not even the only problem when it comes to toxic chemicals. Mercury — from anthropogenic sources such as power generation — also works its way into whales and dolphins. Tests of whale meat for sale online in Japan last year revealed mercury levels as high as 47.5 times what is considered safe for human consumption.

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