Skip to main content


Log in

The Sixth Mass Extinction Crisis and its Impact on Biodiversity and Human Welfare

  • General Article
  • Published:
Resonance Aims and scope Submit manuscript


“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed” - Mahatma Gandhi

The vast number of species prevailing on planet Earth is the result of evolutionary processes that have been operating since life originated about 3.5 billion years ago. As new species evolved, a small number of species that became misfits in the prevailing environment became extinct (background extinction). However, the rapid increase in human population and humanity’s greed for luxurious living have resulted in marked environmental degradation, particularly in the recent decades, increasing species extinction hundred or even thousand-fold compared to background extinctions, thus precipitating the ‘sixth mass extinction’ crisis. Unlike the past five mass extinctions that were due to natural catastrophes, the sixth mass extinction would be exclusively the result of human activities. Habitat loss and its degradation, overex-ploitation of bioresources and climate change have been the main drivers of the sixth mass extinction crisis. Amongst human-induced environmental changes, climate change is going to affect humanity more than any other changes. Apart from exterminating a large number of both terrestrial and aquatic species, these changes bring down crop productivity and quality substantially, thus seriously compromising ecosystem services essential for human welfare. Mitigating human-induced environmental changes has become one of the highest priorities for the humanity to sustain biodiversity and human welfare.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Camilo Mora et al., How many species are there on earth and in the ocean? PLoS Biology, Vol.9, No.8, e1001127 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001127, 2011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. G Ceballos et al., Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction, Science Advances, Vol.1, No.5, e1400253. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400253, 2015.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. D A Burney, T F Flannery, Fifty millennia of catastrophic extinctions after human contact, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Vol.20, pp.395–401, 2005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. W J Ripple et al., and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries, World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice, BioScience, Vol.87, pp.1026–1028, 2017.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. C A Hallmann et al., More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas, PLoS ONE, Vol.12, No.10,, 2017.

    Google Scholar 

  6. B C Lister, A Garcia, Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Vol.b115, E10397–E10406, 2018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. J Ollerton, R Winfree and S Tarrant, How many flowering plants are pollinated by animals?, Oikos, Vol.120, pp.321–326, 2011.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. J C Biesmeijer, S P M Roberts, M Reemer et al., Parallel declines in pollinators and insect-pollinated plants in Britain and the Netherlands, Science, Vol.313, pp.351–354, 2006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. A D Barnosky et al., Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature, Vol.471, pp.51–57, 2014.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston, Mass, 2002.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Bloomsbury, London, 2014 (reviewed in Resonance, Vol.20, No.8, pp.748–750, 2015).

    Google Scholar 

  12. G Ceballos, P R Ehrlich, R Dirzo, Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signalled by vertebrate population losses and declines, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA,, 2017.

    Google Scholar 

  13. K R Jones et al., The location and protection status of earth’s diminishing marine wilderness, Current Biology Vol.28, pp.1–7, 2018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. J Gornall et al., Implications of climate change for agricultural productivity in the early twenty-first century, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Socety B, Vol.365, pp.2973–2989, 2010.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. C Zhao et al., Temperature increase reduces global yields of major crops in four independent estimates, Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences, USA, Vol.114, pp.9326–9331,, 2017.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. M Gammans et al., Negative impacts of climate change on cereal yields: statistical evidence from France, Environmental Research Letters, DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa6b0c, 2017.

    Google Scholar 

  17. C Zhu et al., Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels this century will alter the protein, micronutrients, and vitamin content of rice grains with potential health consequences for the poorest rice-dependent countries, Science Advances, Vol.4, eaaq1012. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq1012, 2018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. F H Shu, Stopping and reversing climate change, Resonance, Vol.24, No.1, pp.51–72, 2019.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. K R Shivanna, Galapagos Islands and Darwin’s theory of evolution, Resonance, Vol.23, No.4, pp.465–478, 2018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. T P Hughes et al., Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene, Science, Vol.359, pp.80–83, 2018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to K R Shivanna.

Additional information

K R Shivanna after retiring from the Department of Botany, University of Delhi, has been associated with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bengaluru as INSA Honorary Scientist. His major interests are the structural and functional aspects of reproductive biology of flowering plants.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Shivanna, K.R. The Sixth Mass Extinction Crisis and its Impact on Biodiversity and Human Welfare. Reson 25, 93–109 (2020).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: