Earth faces sixth mass extinction, but this one man-made

A steep decline in birds, butterflies and native plants in Britain supports the theory that humans are pushing the natural world into the Earth’s sixth bigextinction event and the future may see more and more animal species disappearing.

In an effort that sent more than 20,000 volunteers into every corner of England, Scotland andWales to survey wildlife and plants, researchers found that many native populations are endangered and others are gone altogether. One of the major new findings is that butterflies are going extinct at an even greater rate than birds.

“If we can extrapolate that pattern of the British butterflies to other British insects, and indeed to invertebrates across the planet, we are obviously looking at a very serious biodiversity crisis,” said researcher Mark Telfer of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Bedfordshire, England.

The data support the idea that the rise of humans over tens of thousands of years is partly if not wholly to blame for this sixth great species extinction. The causes of the other extinctions are not well understood. The largest ended the Permian Period some 250 million years ago, when all but about four percent of Earth’s species disappeared.